Probiotics: The amazing front line of optimal health
Bacteria get a bad rap. Ironic but true, that statement may hold more validity than ever suspected, despite being written at a time when society uses excessive hygiene in a futile attempt to eliminate all bacteria! Antibacterial wipes, antibacterial soap, antibacterial hand sanitizer; the list of products created as a protective shield against nasty germs and microbes has become a billion-dollar market that continues to grow daily. We are all scared; scared of the next outbreak; scared of the next microbe strain that may take out civilization. But has anyone ever stopped to wonder whether the bacteria that we are trying so hard to avoid may actually exist for the good of our health? Actually, there is a great deal of research out there that proves just that. For our bodies to function properly, we need a balanced supply of good bacteria (probiotics). And guess what? In order to achieve this balance, we also need exposure to bacteria that is not so good.
First and foremost, a healthy balance of bacteria, specifically in the gut[i], is a precursor to a healthy digestive system. In turn, a healthy digestive system is a very important, albeit often overlooked, prerequisite to overall good health and disease prevention. Therefore, suffice it to say that a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is a necessity for the maintenance of overall health and the prevention of disease.
Taking a closer look at the significance of our bacterial ecosystem to overall health, it appears as though nature attempts to get us off to a positive start and then entrusts us with the responsibility of doing what is necessary to allow this part of our physiology to flourish. Basically, the balance of different strains of bacteria (also referred to as “microbiota”) is unique to every individual as it is established at birth and then built upon through healthy diet and lifestyle along with effective management of stress and environmental toxins. The thing is, this balance of bacteria can be thrown off by these same influences gone awry – antibiotic use, poor dietary or lifestyle choices, environmental factors and stress. This imbalance will make us prone to disease, chronic illness and/or emotional issues.
We each have trillions of microbiota – in fact, these outnumber both cells and genes. Some are harmful, some are harmless, and some are actually beneficial. The beneficial microbes perform all sorts of important functions like the production of vitamins and nutrients, the metabolism of food, drug and toxin breakdown and protection of the body from inflammation and infection. Specifically, two of the most researched strains, Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, are pretty amazing, as they increase blood antibodies, produce vitamin B12, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, regulate body weight and blood glucose, reduce the incidence of kidney stones, quicken muscle recovery after exercise, suppress inflammation and freshen breath! (Richard Becker, 2003)
Another amazing probiotic, Saccharomyces boulardii, is actually not bacteria, but rather a type of yeast originally isolated from mangosteen and lychee tropical fruits back in the 1920s. It is known for its success in the treatment of diarrhea but is also helpful for lactose intolerance, protein digestion overall support of the immune system. Because S. boulardii is very temperature and acid tolerant, it survives well in the digestive environment and it is not affected by anti-bacterial agents.
[i] The “gut” is defined as the portion of the digestive system that collectively includes the esophagus, stomach and intestines along with a self-contained nervous sytem that operates independent of the brain. (Wang, 2012)
Need a probiotic recommendation? You will find the brands that I recommend to clients and use personally in my online dispensary. My favorite? After trying many probiotic products, my family has found the most digestive and immune benefit from Garden of Life brand Primal Defense Ultra (available in my dispensary).
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