How Life-Giving, Healthy Bacteria Can Be Your First Line Of Defence When It Comes To A Healthy GI Tract
When it comes to maintaining a strong immune system and vibrant health, the battle begins in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). In fact, your intestines are the largest immunity organ in your body! Before you can fully appreciate the impact that a good quality probiotic can have on your health though, it’s important to understand the role the GI tract plays in the body.
Primary Functions of the GI Tract
The three main functions of the GI tract are to (1) digest food, (2) absorb nutrients, and (3) protect the body from harmful substances that are ingested. The gut flora (bacteria) within the GI tract perform five major functions in their own right, which are as follows:
- They work to make Vitamins such as B6, B9 and Vitamin K.
- They produce digestive enzymes.
- They assist with the absorption of Calcium, Magnesium and Iron.
- They maintain the integrity of the colon lining, helping to prevent harmful toxins and organisms from crossing into the blood.
A healthy balance in favour of the good versus bad bacteria is critical when it comes to preventing many different ailments; digestive and non-digestive related. This healthy balance also supports nutrient absorption.
What Is A Probiotic?
The word Probiotic means to ‘give life.’ This term refers to the billions of ‘live’ friendly bacteria in the GI tract. The actual process of building bacteria begins at birth, as we pass through the birth canal and continue through life. The type and amounts of bacteria in our GI tract are largely dictated by the foods we eat, and the various lifestyle choices we make. Unfortunately though, due to many insufficiencies in the modern-day diet and lifestyle, the good bacteria are often destroyed, or depleted with age. The following factors also contribute to destroying good bacteria in the GI tract, creating the perfect opportunity for the bad bacteria to multiply, and get the upper hand:
Factors Contributing to the Proliferation of Bad Bacteria
- Processed foods
- Refined sugar
- Chlorinated water
The addition of a good quality probiotic product to your diet can be a significant step to restoring optimal gut health. Scientists have long understood the benefits that ingesting good bacteria can have on overall health, which have been discovered through studying how fermented foods and different bacteria affect human health. Unfortunately though, the modern diet does not support the ingestion of fermented food the way that it used to. Many years ago, microorganisms were used to preserve foods. Now with refrigeration, and sterilisation, we are consuming very few fermented foods without effort.
Selecting A Probiotic Product
When selecting a probiotic product you want to consider several things, not the least of which include:
- Look for a human strain probiotic. This will be the most compatible with our physiology. It has the ability to adhere, and colonise in the gut. Dairy and Vegan sources may not confer the same benefits. Many fail to adhere to the intestinal wall, and die off after ingestion.
- Probiotics should be in live form, and kept refrigerated.
- Look for probiotics that colonise in the small and large intestine for complete GI tract protection.
- Look for a guaranteed bacteria count that is beneficial ‘at expiry’ and not just at time of manufacture.
- Look for Microencapsulation, as it provides longevity.
- Consider also using a separate prebiotic initially to help feed the probiotics and assist in colonisation.
- Recommended dosages may vary. Always remember to consult with an expert as to a dosage that may be best for you and your particular situation.
A Final Word
Today, many experts are considering a good probiotic supplement to be as critical to good health as the daily ingestion of a multivitamin. Over the years, I have observed the effects of poor gut health on wellbeing, energy and more. I have also seen, first hand, the benefits of a proper probiotic supplement. Now, I recommend it to all of my clients.
What Is Dysbiosis?
The term ‘dysbiosis’ refers to an imbalance in intestinal flora. The following are possible symptoms of this condition:
- Bloating, belching, flatulence
- Indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea
- Absence of menstruation (amenorrhoea)
- Allergic reactions to foods and environmental contaminants
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea
- Undigested food in the stool
- Frequent infections
- Chronic yeast infections
- Nausea after taking supplements
- Joint and muscle pain
- Iron deficiency
- Autoimmune disease
- Random body inflammation
Source: Strome, T. (2011, September/October). The Principles of Probiotics. Inside Fitness, 110–112.