There are more bacteria in your intestines than cells that are actually you. 100 trillion give or take a few hundred thousand or so 🙂
That’s a pretty staggering number.
What this really means is that we need these little critters as much as they need us to survive. There are however both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria and getting an imbalance of the ‘bad’ is most likely to lead to long term health problems.
Let’s look at the importance of looking after your digestive health and gut flora.
The quality and quantity of your gut bacteria will effect:
- Your digestion
- Allergic reactions
- Immune health
- Mood, anxiety and brain function
- Successful weight loss
In simple terms there are friendly bacteria that we want to populate our intestinal system and there are opportunistic ‘bad’ bacteria that can over populate and cause symptoms like:
- Any signs of irritable bowel syndrome (constipation or diarrhoea)
- Chronic illness like auto-immune diseases, fibromyalgia, diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Allergies and intolerances.
So why do we get an overgrowth of the baddies?
- Obstructions in our gut that cause irregular function.
- Overuse of antibiotics and some medications.
- Poor quality diet high in booze, sugar and processed carbohydrates.
- Chronic stress.
What can we do to improve our gut health?
- Clean up the diet by cutting out processed foods.
- Stop smoking.
- Lifestyle changes to improve stress tolerance.
- Choose probiotic foods like fermented foods and drinks.
- Take probiotic tablets with food to repopulate the gut with the good bacteria. Chances are you won’t need to take them forever but if you’ve had a string of illness, taken a course of anti-biotics or are particularly stressed then you could do with a boost for sure.
- Get enough rest.
You may want to decide to improve your gut health if you have any long term, undiagnosed but non-specific health issue. Rather than putting more unknown substances into the body in the form of medication, look to clean up your gut health with a clean (fresh food based) diet, probiotic boost and decent rest and see how that leaves you feeling before considering any alternative treatments.
Further reading: Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet’ or ‘Put Your Heart in Your Mouth’