Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bugs That Live in Your Gut

There are 500-1000 different strains of bacteria that live in your digestive tract, which is roughly about 100 trillion bacteria at any given time. They reproduce at lightning speed, meaning in terms of our life span they mutate quite frequently. And nearly half of your body waste is dead bacteria. Grossed out?! Don’t be, these little critters account for nearly 80% of your immune system, and that is the least of their talents.  

Bacteria can digest food much more quickly and efficiently that animals can. In fact the only reason cows can subsist solely on a diet of grass is due to the bacteria that live in their ruminant stomachs. The bacteria feeds on the grass and the waste product is absorbed by the cows stomach and intestinal tract to then be used an energy. Just like in cows, having a healthy stomach flora (the right amount of the right kind of bacteria) means your food is properly broken down and used by your body. The bacteria work with your stomach acids and various enzymes to break down food and prepare then to be absorbed. This means even if you are the best eater in the world your body could still be starving for nutrients because they aren’t being broken down enough to use. Having a healthy stomach flora can help regulate cholesterol levels in your body, promote colon health and reduce your risk of cancer, stable out blood pressure, reduce inflammation in joints, promote mineral absorption, reduce effects of lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, diarrhea, constipation, and even help with severe cases of ADD.

The important things to remember here is that bacteria aren’t scary. They are everywhere and do amazing things in the world. Granted there are a couple deadly strains out there but for the most part they are only found in some truly vile places like corporate feed lots. And the number of harmful strains compared the number of beneficial strains almost makes them insignificant. There are probably only  5-10 strains that could do you any harm that you would ever come in contact with. And even fewer than would cause you any serious problems. Compare this to the the 500-100 strains that live in your digestive system, those pesky harmful strains don’t stand a chance (this includes virus’).   

How do you know you have good or bad stomach flora? Well if you have ever taken antibiotics in your life, chances are you could use some improvement. The funny thing about antibiotics is they kill everything that is bacterial in your body. So if you have ever taken one, it probably got rid of the infection and then wiped out the entirety of your stomach flora. Couple that with traditional American diets and it’s no wonder people get sick all the time.

There are a lot of ways that you can get your digestive tract back in business. In fact there are hundreds of books written on the subject. I found the best way to maintain stomach flora is to take probiotic supplements on a regular basis. Any health food store will sell them, just make sure you buy the ones that are refrigerated. This ensures that they are live cultures and have not been sitting on the self full of preservatives for years. For the most part the supplements are very small gel caps and a heck of a lot easier to get down than calcium supplements. I take two a day year round, but the times I have had to go on antibiotics I have doubled my intake until the antibiotic is out of my system. I have seen a vast improvement in my overall health since I have started probiotics including fewer allergies, avoiding most illness’ that run rampant in my office and a much quicker recovery time when I have gotten sick. And you are going on them or have been on them please let me know how you feel and any improvements in health that you have noticed.

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