What do you really want out of life? This is a question I think about often and it’s a difficult question for some of us to answer. We live in a fast-moving world and stopping to really enjoy life can sometimes feel almost impossible. I’m sure one thing we all can agree on is the desire for the wellbeing of ourselves and our family, because after all, health is wealth. Choosing to be healthy includes what we put into our bodies, so looking at the health of our gut may be a good place to start in our quest for wellbeing. A normal human digestive tract contains more than 500 different types of microorganisms commonly referred to as “friendly bacteria” and can collectively weigh three to five pounds in the average adult. These colony forming bacteria produce natural antibiotics which can help to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. They also promote a healthy digestive system that aids with absorption, and produce nutrients like B vitamins, enzymes and Vitamin K. In addition, they stimulate the production of antibodies in your blood, which can strengthen your immune system and its ability to deal with toxins, poorly digested proteins and harmful bacterias
Some believe that having a large, friendly bacteria population in your gut could help improve your digestion and bowel movements; assist in protecting against food allergies and related symptoms like itchy skin, joint pain, nasal congestion and ear infections; provide protection against asthma; reduce acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions; reduce seasonal allergies; and strengthen your immune system.
So now we come back to choosing what we put into our bodies. That friendly colony we want thriving in our gut is a direct result of our food and lifestyle choices. Logically, the healthier our choices, the more friendly bacteria we support. One way to introduce healthy bacteria to our system is through lacto-fermented foods like kim chee, pickles, fruit chutneys, miso, yogurt, sauerkraut, cheese, tempeh, kombucha, kefir and kvass.
Some feel you can also introduce these healthy bacteria by being outside in relatively unpolluted areas. We are exposed to countless species of friendly bacteria when are outside playing and working. Gardening and hiking in the woods can be considered a simple way to expose yourself to friendly bacteria on a regular basis, as healthy soil is an excellent source of healthy bacteria.
Consequently, some poor choices can destroy friendly bacteria. Some examples of possible colony killers are consumption of food with antibiotic residues (like factory-farmed animal foods), drinking chlorinated water, regular consumption of refined/processed foods, eating foods and beverages that have sugar or other concentrated sweeteners, regular consumption of alcohol, poor stress management, and the use of steroids like prednisone or hydrocortisone, antacids or other acid-inhibiting drugs or laxatives. A very, very common killer of friendly bacteria is the use of antibiotics, which at times is unavoidable, but are also commonly considered overused in today’s society.
So, what can we do when we feel our little, friendly bacteria colony is, well, little? We can work on introducing or increasing our intake of lacto-fermented foods listed above and really take that hike through the arboretum more often. And one can also explore the world of probiotics.
When we hear the word probiotics, it is typically referring to a supplemental form of live microorganism strains similar to the bacteria found in our gut. When taken in the appropriate amounts, they could have a beneficial effect on our bodies by possibly helping to maintain the natural balance of microflora in our intestines.
All probiotic strains are different and have a different effect on each person. According to Dr. Danfeng Song at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, “Health benefits of probiotic bacteria are very strain-specific; therefore, there is no universal strain that would provide all proposed benefits and not all strains of the same species are effective against defined health conditions.” Basically, our gut is reminding us how unique we are.
Below is a list of noteworthy strains from one of the many resources we have available for you in the Wellness department here at the Willy Street Co-op. From the book Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes by Tom Bohager.
Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to control diarrhea and aids in reducing bad cholesterol.
It also aids in decreasing the effect of gastrointestinal problems and vaginal yeast infection, boosting the immune system, and has been known to relieve lactose intolerance.
Lactobacillus casei is effective in the treatment of intestinal infections. L. casei encourages proper gastrointestinal function and elimination and maintains the balance of gastrointestinal terrain.
“Oral administration of Lactobacillus casei has been found to enhance innate immunity by stimulating the activity of... NK cells. The ability to switch mucosal immune responses... with probiotic bacteria provides a strategy for treatment of allergic disorders.”
Beneficial L. bulgaricus colonies “form a hostile environment for pathogenic (disease-causing) germs and play a major detoxification role in removing potentially harmful germs that travel through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and helps to sweep metabolic waste and chemical toxins from the body.”
L. plantarum produces lactic acid, inhibits the growth of gastrointestinal tract pathogens, and prevents flatulence.
Clinical tests on individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have showed a decrease with symptoms and reduced pain.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus provides mucosal support by adhering to the mucosal membrane, inhibiting fungal or bacterial vaginal infections, and preventing infections.
L. rhamnosus has the ability of decreasing secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
B. subtilis is the source of nattokinase, the enzyme that has been discovered to support cardiovascular health and balance blood viscosity. It is one of the most studied strains in the world and has been shown to normalize intestinal microflora balance. It is used primarily as a prophylaxis for intestinal disorders resulting from antibiotics.
Food sources of Bacillus subtilis include fermented soybeans, yogurt, ice cream, milk, and cheese.
Lactobacillu F-19 is an member of lactobacillu acidophilus paracasei species. “It is well tolerated by infants, adults, and the elderly, adheres to the colon, and persists in the GI tract.”
things to Look Out For
Follow the recommended dosage for the probiotic that’s right for you.
Look for probiotics that have been stored in the refrigerator to help secure the potency.
Expiration dates should say guaranteed through expiration; which guarantees the amount of CFUs (colony forming units) at the time of expiration. You should be wary of CFUs expiration dates that say available at the time of manufacture which means your living probiotics could be dead when you buy them.
In honor of Women’s History Month, check out our endcaps in each store. They will be fully stocked with products from women-owned companies.