I'm sure by now you’re either taking probiotics or you have heard that you should be taking them. It’s true, you should be taking them, everyday, forever. Research into probiotics is expanding everyday. I just read something that said “they”, the scientists, are suggesting we have more bacteria living in us than we do human cells! Clearly, it’s a good idea to develop a healthy relationship with these guys, because they can help us or hinder us. In a healthy balanced state of intestinal flora the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) make up a significant proportion of the total microflora. However, in many individuals there is an deficit of beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of non-beneficial or even pathogenic bacteria which results in a situation called dysbiosis. This situation occurs mostly due to a poor diet high in sugar and refined flours, but is also the result of pharmaceutical medication use, stress, alcohol misuse, inflammation, infection, poor digestion and daily exposure to chemicals in our drinking water that are toxic to friendly bacteria (I always drink reverse osmosis!). Following are some signs and symptoms that can result from dysbiosis:
-Dark circles under the eyes
-Fatigue or general malaise
-Strong body odor
Additionally, an overabundance of unfriendly bacteria has the following consequences:
-Depletion of Vitamin B12 and some amino acids
-Digestive enzymes short-circuit
-Conversion of essential fatty acids into damaging fats
-Increased potential for GI infection
-Increased potential for inflammatory GI disease
-Interference with the breakdown of bile acids and estrogens creating a fertile environment for cancer.
While the development of dysbiosis and the solution to it are often times more complicated than simply supplementing with Probiotics, this is always a good place to start. We literally want to crowd out the unfriendly bacteria with the friendly bacteria. Kill ‘em with kindness! There are so many species of bacteria living in our gut and other areas of our body that we don’t even know exist, however, we do have many friendly bacteria available to us that will help us right now! For example, Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These guys have been reported to produce folic acid, niacin, thiamin, riboflafin, pyridoxine, biotin and Vitamin K. Here are some other benefits these various little bugs offer us:
-Keep harmful pathogens out
-Assist in the development of the gut lining
-Supply short chain fatty acids as an energy source
-Have anti-tumor properties
-Can neutralize certain toxins
-Stimulate intestinal immune system
-Reduce blood lipid levels
-Ferment unused energy substance
As you can see from this list, they do a lot more than just help our digestive system! This is just another reminder that our body is interconnected, as we can see that these bacteria living in our gut affect our endocrine system, our immune system and so much more.
As a short caveat, you might ask, what did people do before we had probiotics in a pill? Well, for one thing, they weren’t exposed to the onslaught of toxins we are today that kill them off. Also, most cultures incorporated some form of fermented food. When food is fermented, as in fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kim chi, yogurt and kombucha, friendly bacteria are the result. I encourage people to eat fermented veggies or drink kombucha (yogurt is tricky because of the modern pasteurization process, not to mention the hormones the cows are being ingested with), however unless you consume it with every meal, every day, it won’t be enough.
I hope this offers you some inspiration to start adding probiotics to your daily routine.