Did you know that your digestive tract is full of trillions of bacteria? When we think of bacteria, we often associate it negatively with disease and illness. But the bacteria in our gut is actually good bacteria. Well, most of it is hopefully. That’s where probiotics come in.
The “good” bacteria in our digestive tract actually help to protect our bodies against disease and assist indigestion. When the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria becomes unbalanced, our gut becomes overwhelmed and our bodies not only miss important nutrients, but our entire digestive system begins to function poorly. Consuming probiotics keeps this balance in check and boosts sluggish digestive systems.
Probiotics mean “for life” and it is no wonder why. The following are just a few of healthy benefits of probiotics:
And that is just to name a few of the benefits of these healthy bacteria. Due to the popularity of probiotics, their use has continued to be studied and research has already shown that the benefits of probiotics go beyond the gut. In fact, ingesting probiotics daily is known to enhance your overall immune system. This is due to 70% of your immune system being located in your digestive tract. In other words, if your gut is overrun with bad bacteria, you can probably imagine it is difficult for your immune system to function at its best.
Other discoveries of the health benefits of probiotics are the following:
So why do some people have more bad gut bacteria than others? We aren’t born that way. In fact, we are all born with our own “good” bacteria. After birth, breast milk helps those good bacteria continue to grow and multiply. Unfortunately, our diets is ultimately what drives the number of good bacteria down and allows for the bad bacteria to take over. Diets full of processed and pasteurized foods may be yummy, but they are practically devoid of the healthy bacteria necessary for a balanced intestinal environment.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. The main exception is naturally fermented foods that are consumed in their natural state. In other words, fermented and unpasteurized foods such as kefir, kvass, yogurt, sauerkraut, and natto (fermented soy) are actually a great source of healthy, happy bacteria. Consuming these foods is a great way to prevent against the detrimental damage that can be done by other substances harmful to your gut such as antibiotics.
Antibiotics are one of the worst offenders when it comes to creating an unhappy, unbalanced digestive tract. When you take antibiotics, the drugs kill the bad bacteria likely causing your illness. But here’s the catch. Antibiotics also kill the good bacteria. Killing both the good and bad bacteria creates an environment welcoming to all sorts of trouble. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider. Many may recommend taking a probiotic supplement following a round of antibiotics. Other doctors suggest taking a probiotic supplement daily. I personally tell my patients to both take a probiotic supplement and eat fermented food—but as always, consult your physician before making any dietary changes. (This is simply meant to only be a suggestion.)
If a probiotic supplement is right for you, there are many to choose from and it is important to know what you are looking for. You will want a dietary supplement that has supported research showing immune system protection, allergy reduction, and effective and enhanced nutrient protection. Strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most commonly used “good” bacteria in supplements and there are over 35 species of Bifidobacteria and 125 species of Lactobacilli making up the majority of good bacteria also known as microflora in your large bowel or colon.
When you choose to supplement your diet with probiotics or include fermented, unpasteurized foods, your gut will become balanced and healthy and your immune system will be restored to optimum functioning. You will no longer have to worry as much about illness and you can rest assured your body is properly absorbing the nutrients you are providing it.
About Acupuncturist Dr. Stefanie M. Bennett, LAc, Ph.D. – Holds both a master and one of the few in the area with a doctorate in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, plus two diplomats. She has completed additional training in functional medicine, fertility, herbal medicine, and applied clinical nutrition. She has been practicing in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach for over 13 years. Dr. Bennett also serves many people from Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, Tustin and Orange County. She can be reached at 714-962-5031 and new patients are welcome.