Most people are aware of the types of things that humans need to do in daily life to remain healthy. Eating right, exercise, sleeping regularly, and pooping daily (yes I went there) are just a few of the activities that come to mind, but what if there was another important level that very few think about?
There is a tiny yet expansive world inside each person populated by bacteria that have a powerful impact on human health, vitality, and longevity. Research shows that they affect body weight, energy levels, the brain, and even the expression of genes.
Scientists now believe that over 3/4 of our immune system is kept in our intestinal tract (enteric nervous system), with over 500 species of bacteria in the mix. Did you know that we are FAR outnumbered by our bacteria? They contribute 300 times as much DNA as we do (crazy!). A good balance of these tiny organisms helps keep our immune system appropriately primed and no overreactive. Though there are hundreds, they are often divided into two main groups.
These bacteria are generally helpful because they are responsible for many of the processing functions. When children are made, they receive them from their mother. Some of these bacteria such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, are related to breaking down sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid is one substance made in the body that is helpful in the fight against harmful strains of bacteria. There is also evidence that suggests that there are a few disorders that can be caused by a lack of these bacterial populations.
Lactobacilli are also routinely used to make dairy products due to their high tolerance for low pH conditions, which allows them to travel through the GI tract “unharmed.”
Bifidobacterium makes up approximately 25% of adult fecal bacteria and 80% of infants. Many Bifido bacteria reside within the colon and large intestine. These bacteria play a heavy role in controlling elimination, aiding in digestion, and even have the ability to repair damage from carcinogenic sources in the body. On top of the given digestive help these little buggers provide, they also carry antioxidant properties.
Probiotics influence many functions in the body. In addition to your immune health, researchers have found they affect your body weight, energy and nutrition, and your brain, both psychologically and neurologically. Your microflora impacts the expression of your genes, too, which can have a powerful effect on your health.
So the takeaway from all of this? Keep your gut happy. While I can’t say that probiotics or even fermented foods are right for you (I’m a fan of running a GI Map for this), I can tell you that loading up on a variety of plant foods is crucial for keeping your bugs happy.
If you’re on the hunt for gut healing recipes, I’ve got 5 days worth RIGHT HERE (click)! Also, I run a free, private Facebook group for women, along with another Functional Medicine Health Coach. Join us HERE.