This is one of those foundational issues and concerns of health that really affect so many other things in the body and how it works. If you don’t fix and/or maintain a proper colony of good bacteria in your gut, all sorts of functions can’t happen properly.
There are people walking around with autoimmune issues, gut issues, allergies, or even cancers, when really the root cause is an imbalance of the gut’s good bacteria.
1) Your first brain is actually your gut– there’s more neurotransmitter activity in your gut than there is in your brain. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s the gut that developed first. You know the phrase “I had a gut feeling about that“.
A gut feeling should be given attention because that’s actually your first brain speaking to you. Many of us have had the experience where you had a gut feeling of something but instead let our second brain override whatever that gut feeling was, and we look back and think we should have listened to our gut.
2) A whole world lives within your gut– We have a tendency to think of our gut as part of ourselves, and it is, but it’s actually part of the outside world. Your whole digestive tract (and gut) is a tube that runs from your mouth through your body and out, and it’s a part of the outside world that you carry with you. Everything in that tube is actually part of the outside world. It doesn’t become part of you until it crosses that barrier. Part of that world living within our tube are bacteria called probiotics- the good bacteria. They have important functions in the body.
A normal functioning, healthy adult should have 100 trillion microorganisms living within the gut. That number of organisms is more than the cells in your body combined- almost 10x more. It’s been estimated that there are over a thousand different species of bacteria that could or should inhabit our gut in a healthy way.
Examples of Probiotics in Food Sources
You can get them from foods, and they’re generally fermented, such as yogurt, cheese, kefir, dairy products, as well as miso, sauerkraut, and soy (tofu).
Kombucha is made when a yeast culture is fermented with a bacterial symbiotic culture in tea. Whole Foods commonly has these type of health drinks or your local co-op, and KeVita is another example.
Functions of Probiotic Bacteria in the Gut
1) Helps with digestion-Plays a role with your body’s ability to break down food into its smallest parts so you can absorb and use those parts to build and repair
2) Elimination– Bowel function cannot be normal without probiotic bacteria within your gut. Half the bulk of a normal stool is dead bacteria running through their life cycle.
3) Protects against negative things growing– These good bacteria maintain the neighborhood the way it’s supposed to be maintained, and they keep bad guys from moving into the neighborhood. When you have an imbalance of good bacteria, or you don’t have enough of it to protect you, is when you start to have things growing in your gut that doesn’t belong there.
4) Makes Vitamin K (among other nutrients)- People that have a probiotic imbalance don’t make and absorb vitamin K as efficiently or as well as they should. This is an important nutrient for immune function, heart health, and bone structure.
Factors Affecting the Probiotic Environment
1) Antibiotics– When you take an antibiotic for an infection, it not only kills the bacteria that are causing the infection, but all of the bacteria in your body and in your gut as well. When antibiotics are taken it’s very common for probiotics to be killed off that cause consequences, like diarrhea, constipation, reflux, or digestion issues. Women will often end up with a vaginal yeast infection or other yeast infection after taking an antibiotic.
2) Those that eat a typical American diet have exposure to things that take out the gut’s good bacteria (tap water, beef, or chicken)
3) Caffeine and alcohol
5) Other prescription medicines
Where Probiotics First Come From
We get them from the environment, food, or other environmental exposures. This idea of us living in a sterile environment is not a proper idea, it’s not what nature intended for us, but rather nature is there for us to have constant interaction with the bacteria that are around us.
We first get our probiotics from mom’s exposure when we’re born. When we have a vaginal birth, we pick up mom’s bacteria- that’s the very beginning of setting up probiotic bacteria in our gut. Studies have shown that babies who are born by caesarean section don’t have the same bacteria in their gut, and often have a harder time with allergies, gut function, digestion, or for the immune system to function properly. It’s not whether or not you should have a caesarean section, but we are resorting to C-sections when it’s not really necessary, either from out of convenience, or being overzealous with our surgical interventions.
The same thing can be said for nursing. When a baby nurses from mom, the baby picks up bacteria from mom’s skin. When you bottle feed, you’re using a sterile nipple, and nature didn’t intend for moms to have sterile nipples. Babies that are nursed have an easier time maintaining their good bacteria and that shows up later in life as well. One of the reasons why babies who are nursed have higher IQs, higher intelligence, better immune function, less allergies, less attention deficit issues is because of setting up the gut’s probiotic bacteria.
There is now the advent of genetically modified organisms- ways that people are monkeying with the seeds of plants that go into our food, like soy and corn, which makes them more resistant to pesticides. It’s estimated that 70-80% of soy and corn products you find in the supermarket, actually come from GMO crops. We are also finding those foods affect the gut’s good bacteria.
The first genetically modified animal is now about to be put into the wild. FDA are calling this the Frankenfish, and it’s actually a salmon that’s been genetically modified so it grows faster and bigger. There are computer models predicting what’s going to happen in the wild when these Frankenfish are added to the environment. One model showed that if you take three of these fish and place them into a population of 30,000 normal salmon, that within 40 generations of those salmon, all of those original salmon would be gone and all of the remaining fish would be Frankenfish.
The Appendix Plays a Role
At one point science couldn’t figure out what the appendix was for, so it was assumed it doesn’t serve a purpose. In medicine practices, people often lose their appendix for no reason at all. If you happen to be opened for a surgery for say, the uterine or gallbladder, the doctor figures since it doesn’t have a purpose anyways, and they’re opened up, they might as well remove it now. It actually has an important purpose, which is to act as a reservoir of good bacteria to help re-inoculate your gut when there’s an imbalance.
These are the substances, nutrients, or ingredients that we need to maintain an environment so bacteria can grow in easier. Prebiotics are found as oligofructose, inulin, and found in sources of Jerusalem artichoke, plantain, and chicory root.
Probiotic’s Effects on Health
Immune function- Auto-immune diseases, flu and cold, yeast infections, cancer, allergies
-Bowel function- colitis, Crohn’s, diarrhea and constipation, leaky gut
-Heart function- blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity
Even kidney stones are affected by the gut’s good bacteria. Oxalic acid in excess is the most common culprit for having kidney stones, which can be alleviated with probiotics, or rather, accumulates if there’s an improper balance of the gut’s probiotic bacteria.