While we may not like to think or talk about it, our bodies are full of many kinds of life, the majority of which are too small for us to see or feel. One of these is intestinal flora, or gut bacteria. And our intestines are the site of daily battles between good and evil.
So just how many of this type of bacteria inhabits the human body? About 100 trillion. And intestinal flora doesn’t only work to keep your gut healthy; it’s also been recently discovered that intestinal flora has an influence on several factors of our development, including:
– Risk for serious disease development;
– Mental health and brain development;
– Immune system strength.
A Symbiotic Relationship
The nature of our body’s relationship with its intestinal flora is symbiotic; in exchange for providing them with a home, our intestinal bacteria return the favor by benefiting us in many ways.
Not only does a healthy amount of intestinal flora provide a good defense against invading ‘bad’ bacteria, but it also acts a nutrient sponge, assisting us with absorbing nutrients from our food that we otherwise would not be able to.
Do Not Disturb
In order to have a healthy balance of bacteria in our intestines, it’s important not to do anything that would throw things out of whack. Unfortunately, this is very easy to do, as the balance of bacteria in the intestines is very easily disturbed.
One of the most common ways a disturbance occurs is when antibiotics are ingested. Although antibiotics can work wonders in treating serious infections, they also destroy all the bacteria, good and bad, in our intestines.
Unfortunately, good intestinal flora is quire sensitive to damage from antibiotics. Once the good bacteria have been decimated, the bad bacteria are free to move in and multiply, which can cause any number of health issues, from irritable bowel syndrome to Chron’s disease.
The upset of good intestinal flora can also occur when an excess of processed foods, sugar or alcohol are ingested. Even stress can kill good bacteria. The pretty blue food coloring you may have used on a child’s birthday cake can also be enough to upset good bacteria, as can food additives and preservatives.
Restoring the Balance
One way to ensure that a healthy amount of intestinal flora is working in your body the majority of the time is to avoid using any antibiotics unless serious infection warrants it. Another way is to look to alternatives to processed and sugary foods.
The consumption of sugar is a difficult process for many to change. This is because sugars in food often come in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which does stimulate the brain’s pleasure center, but doesn’t tell the brain that you’ve had enough. Instead, it tends to encourage more consumption in order to regain the good feeling it causes. This can lead to a long and vicious cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes, along with regular damage to your good intestinal flora.
There are natural sweeteners that don’t contain fructose. And while they may not taste the same as refined sugars, they can give you the best of both worlds; the sweetness you like in your food and beverages without the calories or danger of sugar spikes and bacterial damage.
Supplementing your diet with probiotics is another way to encourage the growth of good intestinal bacteria. Many supplements are available today to treat a wide number of intestinal issues. You can find out which species of intestinal bacteria are responsible for a particular condition, and then locate those probiotics which can help you restore the balance.
Water, Water Everywhere
The amount of water in your intestines will make a big difference in how well your bacterial restoration goes. That’s because in order for good bacteria to thrive, they need to be able to move freely. Drinking water regularly through the day will help ensure you’re giving good bacteria a fighting chance.
Traditionally fermented foods like Tempeh and Kimchee, along with fermented vegetables can positively influence the growth of good intestinal flora. You can also learn how to ferment your own vegetables, which can not only be cost-effective, but provide you with many more bacteria that you would receive from supplements alone.
Guest author Ruth Suelemente writes on a variety of topics, but really enjoys writing about health and wellness. She is a frequent contributor at The Diet Mindset, a website dedicated to helping consumers make sense of diet plans like the Medifast Diet. You can also find Ruth on Google.