Bacteria, also known as bugs or germs! And because of the word ‘germ’ we assume they are all bad. Scientists have recently discovered that actually, most of the bacteria in our body is good for us. In fact the key to good health depends on having enough of the right kind. We all have trillions of bacteria living in our intestines, hundreds of different species all performing different functions. It’s called GUT flora and it is paramount for good health. For example, an imbalance in GUT BACTERIA has been found in conditions like Obesity, Bowel Cancer, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome).
But there is a need to taking better care not to disrupt this fragile eco system. We all carry good and bad bugs, and it’s the imbalance that is the biggest trigger for our illnesses and many hard core conditions.
Having a healthy gut protects us from the common cold to cancer and the connection between the gut and the immune system is quite significant. Did you know that 80% of our immune system is located all along the boundary of the gut? This is quite significant and not many people realise that when we say our gut is our second brain, it really is – and in my humble opinion is probably the more important of the two as it decides on our life journey before anything else because we use our gut to feed ourselves.
Right now we are seeing an epidemic of disruption of the microbiome in the gut bacteria worldwide. The reason for that is because of the widespread use and prescribing of antibiotics. Research has already shown that most antibiotics are not working, and that is because they not only kill bad bacteria, but they also kill good bacteria. Taking an antibiotic will change the complexity of your gut bacteria and the diversity of the gut bacteria will change for the rest of your life, just one course of antibiotics will do this.
Processed food is also a massive culprit. We have way too much sugar in our diet and sugar breeds bad organisms. And when I say sugar I am also talking about artificial sweeteners because they have been shown to cause a dysbiosis which means microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body. Processed food promotes the growth of not very favourable bacteria that can cause inflammation and disease.
So what’s the solution? In my honest opinion, we really do have to welcome fat back to our table – yes, but only the good fats. Not the modified fats, so be very liberal with your use of extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil, only eat wild fish, eat nuts and seeds daily, and if you are a meat eater, only grass fed meat if you can find it, aka organic, farmed. I know this is a tall order for lots of people, but it’s more important now than ever before to keep processed food away from your shopping baskets.
Even babies delivered by C section can miss out on getting enough good bacteria. We gain our first bacteria at the moment of birth but only if we pass through the mothers birth canal, it is at this time that baby is inoculated with the good bacteria that passes from mother to baby. This is lifelong immunity. It’s not my place to discuss how babies come into the world, but a natural birth is always the desired route for long term health.
Can we make our gut healthier again and keep it that way? Yes we can, and often by simply changing our diets, our lifestyle, and with the help of pro-biotics and pre-biotics. Pro and Pre-biotics are a great idea, but first establish whether or not you need to up your already natural intakes which are contained readily in lots of the food you may already be eating. Remember it’s all about ‘the balance’ so overdoing the good bacteria (because that’s what is contained in Pro-biotics) might not be necessary. Plus, long term you want to be relying on your daily food intakes, which will always be the best route.
What are Pro-biotics?
Pro-biotics are live bacteria and yeasts which are important for your health, especially your digestive system. Your body is full of good and bad bacteria, and pro-biotics are the good, helpful bacteria that keep your gut healthy. They are already found in your body, so you don’t have to add them to your body unless you know there is a problem, or unless you know you are ‘losing’ good bacteria say after you have been taking antibiotics.
Pro-biotics balance your good and bad bacteria, and help move food through your gut. It is still not clear which pro-biotics are best for which conditions, but they have been seen to treat common conditions like IBS, IBD, and Diarrhoea. Some research has shown that pro-biotics have helped skin conditions like eczema. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic and it’s what you will find in yoghurts and other fermented foods. Bifidobacterium is naturally found in dairy products and the food industry have also added pro-biotics to certain yoghurts and chesses, and even to chocolate! You can also find these microscopic organisms in supplements as well as in cultured and fermented foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt, komboucha – all much easier to buy since the wave of publicity on Gut Health.
The FDA is keen to regulate pro-biotics in the same way that they regulate food, (unlike the way they regulate medicine), so please always consult your doctor, or at least do the research yourself on whether or not you need to regularly use pro-biotics.
What are Pre-biotics?
The good bacteria in your gut live off pre-biotics. So it’s just like good soil, which creates a nurturing environment. In short, the pre-biotic is like a specialised plant fibre which nourishes the good bacteria already in the large bowel. So, pro-biotics introduce good bacteria into the gut and pre-biotics work like a fertiliser for what’s already there helping the pro-biotic to grow and balancing up the ratio of good and bad.
You can acquire plenty of pre-biotics if you regularly eat asparagus, leeks, onion, garlic and/or dandelion greens. Pre-biotics are just as important as pro-biotics, so if you are not eating the foods mentioned, a supplement would be helpful, or better still, try to learn new recipes which include onions and garlic.
There is lots of exciting new research out there right now discussing the gut and in particular the connection between depression, weight loss, mood swings, and obesity. When people start increasing their pre-biotic fibre, the changes in their health are remarkable. Weight loss is immediate, and the improvement of mood is massively helped just by adding pre-biotic fibre to our diet. This is revolutionary new information and long overdue.
My favourite read at the moment is: The Diet Myth by Tim Spector. Highly recommend it!