Probiotics: Keep Your Bacteria Happy and They Will Keep You Healthy

Our intestinal track is the place where most of our immune system resides, and this part of our body is densely populated by our little helpers, the bacteria.

Scientists have counted more than 500 different species of bacteria in the human body. In fact, the population of bacteria – good ones and bad ones – is ten times higher than the number of human cells.

It is the diversity of good bacteria that strengthens our immune system and keeps us healthy: the more species of good gut bacteria we have, the better our digestion and the less chance for their bad cousins to take over.

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Probiotics: the word says it all

The scientific term for beneficial bacteria in the human body is probiotics. This word is a composite of the Latin word “pro”, meaning “for’, and the Greek word “biotikos”, meaning “fit for life”. Probiotics is the opposite of antibiotics. The introduction of the concept of probiotics is attributed to Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff, who postulated that Bulgarian peasants lived longer because of their yoghurt consumption.

Have good bacteria become an endangered species?

Newborn babies have a sterile digestive system, because, in utero, mommy provides all the nourishment they need. Certain immune boosting bacteria, for example, are only found in breast milk. This is the reason why babies that are breastfed are less prone to conditions like eczema and allergies.

Other species of bacteria enter babies’ guts via people they touch and things they put in their mouth, from toys to dirt. This is all natural and necessary. Without his or her own bacteria colony, the child would not stand a chance in life. But the natural way of building up our immune system and our ability to digest our food through a healthy gut bacteria population, is threatened by our modern lifestyle. And this starts at a very young age.

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Threats to our gut health

  • Antibiotics

Though nobody would want to go back to the days before antibiotics were discovered, they do a lot of harm to our immune system, because they kill the good bacteria with the bad ones. And once the population of good bacteria is decimated, the bad ones start moving in.

  • Diet

Traditional diets included raw and fermented foods, rich in beneficial bacteria, while today we pasteurize everything an process out any species of bacterial life. On top of that, we nourish harmful bacteria with our over consumption of sugars, fats and processed starches.

  • Stress

Stress – a growing concern in our society – can cause many health problems, including severe damage to our gut flora. Stress influences the contractions in the small intestine, affecting the rate food moves through our system, and opens the door to bad bacteria. The more stressed a person is, the more suppressed the immune system.

  • Hygiene

Hygiene? Yes, hygiene. We are too concerned about sanitizing. The use of antibacterial soap and harsh cleaning chemicals is another modern threat to the beneficial bacteria we harbor.

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7 ways to keep your good gut bacteria happy

  1. Eat lots of whole foods

Prioritize vegetables, fruits and nuts, and stay away from processed foods as much as you can.

  1. Cut down on sugars, grains, starches and vegetable oil

Especially sugar is a bad, as refined sugars acidify the system and trigger the body to produce more bile. All the above mentioned foods deplete beneficial bacteria, while harmful bacteria feast on them.

  1. Add probiotic foods to your diet

Treat your gut at least once a day to a serving of a food with probiotic or “live” cultures. You will probably not like all of them, but here is a list you can choose from:

  • Fermented vegetables: kimchi, sauerkraut, carrots, green beans, beets, traditional cured Greek olives
  • Fermented soybeans: miso, natto, tempeh
  • Cultured dairy products: buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, cheese
  • nondairy yogurts and kefirs made from soy, coconut
  • Fermented grains and beans: lentils, chickpea, miso
  • Fermented beverages (kefirs and kombuchas)
  1. Take a probiotic supplement

A daily, probiotic supplement of good quality, like Good 8-biotics might be advisable, especially for those who suffer from chronic gastric complaints, such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. And it is certainly a good idea if you’re on an antibiotic or have taken antibiotics in the past. As each capsule contains 20 million live bacteria, it’s a real boost to your immune system.

  1. Don’t overdo antibiotics

Antibiotics kill your gut bacteria indiscriminately: the good and the bad. If the illness is not severe, consider skipping antibiotics and treat it naturally, or just let it run its course. In case the use of antibiotics is necessary, make sure to take a good probiotic supplement during the treatment and continue taking it for a while afterward to help replenish your indispensable bacteria.

  1. Don’t be afraid of fiber

Fiber brings diversity to your ecosystem. In fact, fiber is one of the things that people lack most in their diet.

  1. Take it easy

Doctors hear the same story over and over again: “My (gastrointestinal) problems began with stress.” Too little sleep can also affect the immune system and mess up the hormones that contribute to feelings of hunger and satiety. Seven to eight hours of sleep is beneficial for many things, including a healthy digestion.

  1. Take up gardening

Getting dirty hands from your garden soil is a great way to get your probiotics, while growing your own healthy organic food.

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