Monday, March 17, 2014

Balanced Intestinal Flora – Why it Matters

          When the intestinal flora is balanced and working properly, there are billions of friendly bacteria at work colonizing and protecting us.  The list of ways they help us is long indeed, but here are some highlights: friendly bacteria create vitamins, produce acid where needed to aid in the digestion of minerals, protect our bodies from invasion of harmful bacteria and enhance our immune system function in many ways.  

          If something were to go awry within our intestinal flora system, the smooth and highly functioning business of regulating our immune system will be replaced with a nightmare of health attacking scenarios.  Imagine a healthy balanced system is suddenly facing an infection and the patient begins a dose of antibiotics. These antibiotics kill off good bacteria with the bad, they do  not discriminate.  Now the space previously taken up in the gut by trillions of good bacteria is left open for any negative bacteria to grab on and flourish!  Following this is the release of toxins that can damage our brush border, breaking away at the tight junctions and allowing toxins to free flow through that would have otherwise been rejected.  Now we have, what is called, increased permeability of the gut and a certain state of dysbiosis.  

          The imbalance of the good and bad bacteria within the gut is the dysbiosis, itself, while the damage to the brush border and leaking passage is the start of leaky gut.  Now, the list of problems that can occur with dysbiosis and with leaky gut are far too numerous to mention, but here are some highlights of what you could expect: diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pain, increased risk of cancer, indigestion, food sensitivities, rheumatoid arthritis, candida, eczema and on and on the list goes. (Lipski. 2005. 62-95)   

          No one wants to be in a state of dysbiosis, but we all have events in life which will increase our odds of imbalanced flora.  We may need a round of antibiotics, or NSAIDS, or perhaps we have just undergone a strong period of stress.  So when the damage is done, how can we fix it? How can we get off the negative and vicious cycle and work our way back to good health?
          Start by assessing where your body is in the damage stage.  Some testing with a Doctor will tell you if you are fighting Candida and pH testing will let you know if your HCl is too low or high.  Taking this information and feeding the body with the proper foods for the results you uncover is a first step.  

          Feed the good bacteria and give them a boost with prebiotics such as inulin and FOS, which you can add through your diet by eating foods rich in these such as artichokes, unripe bananas, aspargus, riceera yogurt with inulin and more.  Begin taking a quality probiotic.  Look for probiotics that are kept in the refrigerated section of a store or doctor's office, and look for one that list bacterias such as B Bifidum and L acidophilus together (and there are many more bacteria, but these are two common and good bacteria to start with!).  

          Eat a healthy whole foods diet, avoid sugars and junk food, add in boosters such as raw garlic (Murray ND, Michael 2005.  106) to help boost your system and you are well on your way to re establishing that vital balance and resting easy while your gut flora does its job... taking care of you!

By Laura Schmitt

Lipski PHD, CCN, Elizabeth. Digestive Wellness : New York, McGraw Hill, 2005
Murray ND, Michael and Joseph Pizzorno ND with Lara Pizzorno MA, LMT. The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods : New York, Pocket Books, 2005.

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