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The Role Of Friendly Bacteria In Digestive Health.
Most people do not realize that our gut is filled with bacteria all the time. The vast majority of the bacteria and fungi in our system exist in the colon. In fact, it is estimated that, at any given point in time, several pounds of bacteria exist in our system.
Friendly Bacteria versus Unfriendly Bacteria.
If our digestive system is working properly, it consists mostly of friendly bacteria. These consist of bacteria that come from the Bifidobacterium family, Acidophilus, and Lactobacillus family of bacteria. There are about 100 trillion of these bacteria that actually outnumber the number of cells in the actual human body by a factor of 10:1.
Friendly bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship with us. The aid in the proper metabolism of nutrients we eat. Some nutrients we consume cannot be utilized by the body until they are first metabolized by the friendly bacteria. The bacteria use the nutrients we provide for them in the gut and use them for fuel, exchanging them for nutrients our body needs. Without the help of friendly bacteria, we would become nutrient deficient and our health would suffer.
In some cases, people contain too many unfriendly bacteria and fungi, including Candida species and bacteria such as Escherichia coli or E. coli. These do not help the body gain nutrients and can, in fact, cause bloating, gut inflammation, discomfort and gas in the system. In some cases, the unfriendly bacteria leads to nonnutritive materials and food particles that are really too large to be absorbed in the system. When this happens, we develop a “leaky gut” that has been shown to cause food sensitivities and generally make us sick.
Maintaining the Balance of Good and Bad Bacteria.
The trick to good health is to have as many of the friendly bacteria in the gut and to eliminate or reduce the numbers of unhealthy bacteria and fungi within the gut. This sets up a nice balance that prevents leaky gut syndrome and allows the digestive system to run smoothly.
But how do we do this? It turns out that there are foods you can eat that contain healthy bacteria in them and, if you can’t eat these foods or want a simpler way to have healthy bacteria in your system, there are supplements you can take that can improve the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in your gut.
The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics.
Probiotics are basically the good bacteria in your system. You can consume them by eating plain yogurt with live cultures, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, Gouda cheese, kefir, and sourdough bread, among others.
There are also many different brands of probiotic supplements you can take to build up the healthy bacteria in your system. Try to choose a brand that will allow the bacteria to make it through the acidic environment of the stomach so that they can colonize the gut. Some probiotics contain the spores of bacteria that survive the stomach’s acidic environment only to grow from a spore to an adult bacterium later on in the gut. These are the types of probiotics to take.
It may also be important to take prebiotic supplements. Prebiotics are not bacteria at all but represent the nutrients good bacteria need to live off. When you combine probiotics and prebiotics, you give your gut the best chance of having the right kind of environment for good health.
Prebiotics can be taken as a supplement or can be found in non-digestible carbs, such as onions, whole grains, leeks, garlic, chicory root, asparagus, and artichokes. These feed good bacteria and help eliminate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
A Healthy Gut.
When the friendly bacteria vastly outnumber the unfriendly bacteria, your gut will run smoothly, you will get the nutrients you need from the metabolism of the good bacteria, and you will generally aid in good health and proper nutrition.
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