Did you know you carry approximately 100 trillion microorganisms in your intestines? These microorganisms make up a complex, interdependent ecosystem. They can be both helpful and/or harmful. The “good” bacteria perform beneficial functions such as enzyme production, extracting energy and nutrients from food, interaction with the immune system, and prevention of pathogens. Your gut also hosts “bad” bacteria that release toxins that are released into the bloodstream. These toxins are associated with a number of illnesses.
More recent research indicates that your gut “flora” has many systemic effects. It not only affects your digestive health but it may also affect sleep patterns, mood, weight gain, and even rheumatoid arthritis (see link below for a study published by NHI).
The foods you consume feed these microorganisms. A diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables encourages a healthy flora. Probiotics are also a great way to encourage a healthy gut. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are found in kefir, yogurt, and supplement form, help to foster and feed a healthy flora. Diets high in sugar and processed foods will feed the “bad” bacteria rather than promoting the “good” bacteria. In addition, frequent use of broad spectrum antibiotics can wipe out the gut flora and cause an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria. While antibiotics serve a purpose, it is often at the expense of your intestinal health.
Protect your gut and overall health by optimizing your diet, minimizing stress, and ensuring plenty of sleep. A balance gut flora will dramatically help your overall health and well being.
Check out some recent research on gut flora: