If you are having problems with digestion, then it is time for a gut check. But what if you have no symptoms?
We are supposed to have about 3 lbs of good bacteria in our digestive tract. We need this to help digest and absorb the nutrients from the food we eat. Think of the gut as a garden. We want healthy plants or flowers in it. If it gets overgrown with weeds or bad bacteria or parasites, then the good plants will not thrive. Dysbiosis refers to microbial imbalances and is most prominent in the digestive tract.
There are stool tests that can be used to see what kind of bacteria, amoebas, parasites, or what kind of fungal forms may exist. These are the weeds of your garden. Two things are common: one, there is a proliferation of bad bacteria or bad “bugs”; and secondly, there’s an absence of healthy bacteria. The test will also show what natural herbs and medications will kill the unwanted visitors in the gut. (This test gives different information that a colonoscopy, and is more comfortable.)
Here are some factors that cause what the researchers are calling intestinal overgrowth or bad bacteria. Stress causes a change in the pH of the bowel, causing the healthy bacteria to not proliferate as they should; low fiber starves out the healthy bacteria. A sugar-laden diet feeds the bad bacteria. High trans-fats or hydrogenated oils have a negative effect on biliary function. We need healthy bile flow to create the proper pH and to have the proper transit time necessary for the proliferation of good bacteria. Another factor: antibiotics, whether we take the pills or if we consume commercially prepared antibiotic tainted chicken, beef, or pork, we’re getting the side effects of antibiotics. Eating too fast can cause the growth of bad bacteria. If we eat too fast, we’re not digesting our food properly and our enzymes are not killing the bacteria that are naturally present in our food.
If you think about it, just about everyone has one or more of those factors.
So really, everyone should go on a periodic “reseeding” of healthy probiotics. The more research accumulates, the more we find that gut problems are a contributing factor to just about every condition.
A huge part of fixing the GI tract is balancing the gut micro-flora. Healthy probiotics have been shown to: improve digestive function, modulate the gut immune system up or down, increase the growth of an aerobic bacterium, decrease bad or unfriendly bacteria and reduce leaky gut. Probiotics are a big factor in maintaining a healthy GI barrier. This barrier selectively blocks unhealthy organisms and antibodies from entering the blood stream. Healthy probiotics have also been shown to improve liver function, to stimulate phagosytosis and to benefit healthy gastric mucosal linings.
Here is a major point to remember: eating yogurt is not the same as taking a good pre and probiotic formula.
There is no comparison, despite what the movie star tells you on the commercial. Which brings up a point, many of the commercial preparations of probiotics tested did not meet label claims in terms of the numbers of bacteria, and in many cases the healthy bacteria were already dead. Make sure the probiotics that you take have prebiotics in with them as well. Prebiotics are valuable to make sure that the healthy bacteria can grow, kind of like putting starter fertilizer on new grass. They create an environment that is conducive to their growth and health.
So if you are having gastrointestinal symptoms, make sure you get into a health provider that understands what we have just talked about. If you are going on antibiotics, or have been on them, you need to get on a good quality pre and probiotic formula to reseed and feed your gut garden.
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Dr Chris Heimlich, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician and Board Eligible Chiropractic and Functional Neurologist