For too long we have ignored our first defense against pathogens – our gut, actually, our whole alimentary canal. Simple proof of that is to compare the food you eat with what is left after it passes through the canal. Not only would you not want to eat it, but if you did, you could become very ill. It is a concentration of toxins and wastes your body has decided not to have. Perhaps we haven’t had the discussion because it is such an awkward topic. However, I do believe it is because we did not realize how important it is. In fact, science only now is trying to unravel the parts unknown about this intriguing canal. Our mouths already react to toxins through producing excess saliva to fight off some toxins and start the digestive process. And then we all know about the acidic gastric juices which start breaking down the proteins. Apparently it is not the only job of the acids. It should also kill off unwanted bacteria to prevent it from going through the rest of our intestines causing a domino effect of problems. The rest of the digestion process takes place in the small intestine where most of the absorption of hopefully nutrients only will take place. Then comes the large intestine and colon.
By this stage, the food should be unrecognizable, nutrient poor, toxin rich and ready to be returned to our vulnerable water cycle. But not so fast, say those who study the bottom of the canal! There is still very important work to be done by a colony of bacteria (also known as probiotics) which has survived the acidic gastric juices, all the courses of antibiotics as well as other drugs such as estrogen, antacids and the chlorine in our tap water to name only a few. Now that we have compromised our colonies of gut bacteria we are starting to discover their purpose.
Looking at the roles gut bacteria fulfill, you can also see how destroying healthy bacteria will contribute to modern diseases. According to scientists it plays a role in:
- strengthening your immune system, reducing inflammation and impacting genetic expression, all factors in the development of cancer
- helping with weight control through improving metabolism as well as controlling caloric absorption
- anti-allergic properties
- the production of vitamins B and K - vitamins essential to health
- the effect of healthy gut bacteria on brain function - a new journal, ‘Brain and Gut’ by David Perlmutter has seen the light this year and deals exclusively with this topic
- these good bacteria kill bad bacteria and other pathogens in the gut
- metabolizes cholesterol
- produces lactic acid which serves as energy for the peristaltic movement of the gut
- help heal the gut (http://www.ukudla4life.com/blog-3/2016/3/28/spilling-the-guts-on-gut-bacteria)
- help consume excess sugar
- could alter gene expression
Certainly over time research will bring more evidence on how gut bacteria affects our health.
We know quite a bit, yet this is not to be confused with knowing everything regarding probiotics. It is commonly accepted that there are good and bad bacteria. It now seems that all bacteria are good when there is balance in the colony and if it stays in the large intestine. Bacteria only becomes bad when there is an overgrowth of one or more of the species or if it leaks into the bloodstream or backs up to the small intestine.
My take home message for you today is to consume as many bacteria through fermented food as possible. There are so many sources and if you allow yourself time to get used to the taste of some of these foods you could incorporate a variety in a very short period of time. Examples of these are probiotic yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Korean kimchi, traditional pickles (beets, cucumbers garlic radish and more), miso, tempeh, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar to name the most common ones. If you want to improve your gut health and consequently your overall health, explore the consumption of these foods and let them fight for your health. If they do not appeal to you straight up, blend it with other foods. Kimchi gives an interesting flavor to a green salad and yogurt tones down the heat of a curry dish.
As there are 100's of these bacteria, you want to get as many as possible through supplementation. Do not stick to one brand or a certain type of bacteria. Rotate brands to get a broad spectrum of these bacteria. Also, when using natural antibiotics, use Colloidal Silver, as it is absorbed in the small intestines, before it could kill of the healthy bacteria in the colon.