The Best Years in Life
Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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Heal Your Intestinal Tract and Save Your Life
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) We've been taught to believe that bacteria is a bad thing and we probably don't want to think about the trillions of them that should be living happily in our intestinal tracts. Intentionally swallowing down some more of them seems counter-intuitive, but the truth is that taking probiotics is one of the best interventions we can take to stay healthy or regain lost health. This is because the friendly bacteria living in our intestinal tracts are the foundation of the immune system. They hold the keys to our very existence.
Living with bacteria in beautiful symbiosis
Bacteria were here on earth long before people showed up, and it was up to us to learn how to get along with them. The evolutionary deal we struck was that friendly bacteria could live in style and comfort in our intestinal tracts, munching on our sugar and hormones. In return, these bacteria would defend us against invaders. This is a great arrangement as long as both parties keep up their end of the bargain.
The friendly bacteria living in our guts are our personal bodyguards, willing to go to war against unfriendly bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens to protect us so they can keep their comfy homes safe. In the process they are responsible for destroying cancer cell and keeping us safe too. As long as they are up to the task of winning these wars, we will stay healthy and able to maintain our positive outlooks.
What can go wrong in the relationship between us and our bacteria
Probably the worst thing that can happen to ruin this happy relationship is taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the bodyguards along with the enemies. When our bodyguards are lying dead, we have no defense and are wide open to colds, flu and cancer. Digestion suffers and instead of a nice contented intestinal tract we end up with the digestive blues characterized by gas, belching, rumbling and other things too gross to mention here.
When digestion gets bad enough, malnourishment sets in. Then the body does not have the nutrients it needs to sustain health and deterioration starts to pick up steam. This downard spiral sets us up to be prime candidates for degenerative diseases along with infection from parasites and other unwanted micoorganisms. This is why so many health experts say that death begins in the gut. It is the direct result of beneficial bacteria depletion.
Even if you are not a user of antibiotics, your herd of friendly bacteria can become so depleted that it can no longer defend you. Pesticides used in food production, chlorine in water, and the stress of modern living slowly kill off your beneficial bacteria population, and over time your intestinal tract can become just as devoid of them as if you had in fact taken antibiotics. When this happens, disease-causing bacteria, yeasts and fungi are free to set up shop. Then you've got a problem because it is very difficult to evict them.
Why probiotics are so important
Probiotics are friendly bacteria similar to those found in healthy people's intestinal tracts, especially in the intestinal tracts of breastfed infants who have been provided this natural protection against many diseases by their mothers. Most friendly bacteria come from the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium groups. There are several different species of bacteria in each group.
Taking probiotics is a way to keep your friendly bacteria population up to full strength so it is always at the ready to come to your defense. It is a way to replenish the bacteria that are killed off by pesticides, chlorine and stress. If you have used antibiotics, taking probiotics is essential because you most likely have unfriendly microoganisms already established in your intestinal tract that your reduced levels of friendly bacteria are having difficulty handling. In fact, taking antiobiotics frequently or for a sustained period can leave you with virtually no beneficial bacteria and nothing living in your gut but pathogens. Taking probiotics regularly will allow your friendly bacteria population to be restored and strengthened to a level where it can oust intruders and keep you safe and sound.
Recent research documents the need for probiotics
Probiotics have been the subject of much recent research. In one of the most interesting, the scientists conducting the study found that degeneration of intestinal bacteria is the most probable cause of inflammatory bowel disease. They also found this can be modified by the use of probiotics . Their study evaluated and compared the effects of two probiotic regimens, one with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and the other with a mixture of Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium lactis. Each regimen was used on rats in which colitis had been induced. Results indicated significant reductions in the inflammatory response with both regimens.
In another study researchers studied mice infected with Citrobacter rodentium to determine the role played by specific probiotics in decreasing disease severity. The infections were so severe that they caused weight loss and death in the mice. However, survival was promoted and maintained by daily treatment with Lactobacilli, and the expression of the disease was significantly reduced.
Scientists in Australia recently published a review citing probiotic supplements as a way to enhance gut and immune function. They noted that healthy intestinal microbiota consists of diverse bacterial species, but highlighted that the interaction of the gut bacteria with the cells of the intestines and with immune cells also exerts beneficial effects on the upper repiratory tract, skin and uro-genital tract.
How to supplement with probiotics
There are two ways to recolonize your intestinal tract, with food or with supplements. Although yogurt manufacturers like to advertise their products as restoring beneficial bacteria, they are not effective at recolonizing the gut. The best food to get that job done is kefir, a creamy, drinkable yogurt-style fermented milk that tastes something like buttermilk. Kefir is available at health food stores in natural fruit flavors and sweetened with evaporated cane juice, as well as in a plain, unsweetened variety. You can even make kefir at home with whatever kind of milk you like, such as coconut milk. Kefir is loaded with vitamins, minerals and highly digestible protein. It can be consumed by the lactose intolerant because its yeast and bacteria provide the enzyme lactase. Kefir starter is easily found online.
Probiotic supplements are the most convenient way to completely recolonize your intestinal tract, but they are not as effective as kefir. Look for a supplement containing at least some of the strains mentioned above.
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