You probably have more friendly bacteria in your intestinal system than there are cells in your body, and they perform a host of useful functions.
A healthy adult can have more than 400 species of good bacteria in the digestive tract. In total, the micro-organisms may collectively weigh anywhere from two to four kilograms. Because bacteria can be a hundred or more times smaller than human cells, the total number of bacteria in the digestive tract may greatly exceed the number of all the cells in the human body.
These friendly micro-organisms modify our internal terrain and create a healthy digestive environment. We cannot live without them. They help digest food in both the small and large intestines. They secrete compounds that normalise and heal the digestive environment, along with compounds that are absorbed into our blood, providing us with vitamins B, C, K, and E, as well as amino acids, butyric acid, and dozens of other healthy substances. They play a critical role in our immunity, as they directly drive out pathogenic organisms and secrete substances that are used by the immune system.
WHAT IS DYSBIOSIS?
Many people who are suffering from poor health have a disturbance in their inner probiotic ‘garden’. A dysbiosis is a disturbance in the natural balance of friendly bacteria as opposed to unfriendly bacteria. It occurs when the naturally occurring friendly bacteria are unable to proliferate, e.g. as a result of heavy use of antibiotics or garlic, or because unfriendly bacteria, yeast, mould, viruses, calcium-forming organisms, and/or other parasites have gained the upper hand in the digestive tract. The following circumstances can disturb our internal probiotic environment, creating a dysbiosis:
- excessive antibiotic use
- consumption of factory-farmed meat and dairy products (indirect use of antibiotics)
- high-stress environments
- high-sugar diets and excessive carbohydrate intake
- heavy-metal toxicity
- chronically disturbed lifestyle patterns (e.g. excessive travelling, lack of sleep, inability to find a quiet and private toilet, etc.)
- exposure to radioactivity (depleted uranium) and X-rays
- ‘unwanted guest’ exposure (too many parasites)
- exposure to artificial chemicals
- hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives.
Supplementing the diet with friendly bacteria (probiotics) helps heal dysbiosis. Even if we do not suffer from digestive disturbances, an understanding of the overall importance of probiotics is a key ingredient in the recipe for vibrant health and longevity.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
According to the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, probiotics can be defined as ‘live micro-organisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. Micro-organisms are tiny living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts that can be seen only under a microscope. Probiotics are ‘friendly micro-organisms’.
WHAT DO PROBIOTICS DO?
Probiotics have been found to:
- prevent growth of harmful bacteria, yeast, and fungi
- maintain the chemical and hormonal balance within the body
- produce and regulate vitamins (especially B vitamins, including vitamin B12)
- assist the digestive system, and correct nutritional deficiencies
- help the immune system to function properly
- lower calcification levels and severity of calcium-related illnesses
- decrease body odour (because probiotic bacteria digest putrefying matter in the bowel – a friend of mine feeds probiotics to her dogs, and as a result they have no body or breath odour).
Probiotics are available in foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, coconut kefir and other fermented foods, and as dietary supplements that come in the form of capsules, tablets and powders. Getting probiotics into the lower gastro-intestinal tract may require large dosages, and/or enteric-coated probiotic capsules that can survive the stomach and upper gastro-intestinal environment so that their contents can implant in the lower regions. These food sources and supplements can be purchased in any health food store and online.
It is also possible to use capsules or other probiotic ‘starters’ to culture one’s own foods and beverages in order to flood the body with friendly bacteria. Culturing is an entire art in itself – for more information, read Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation and Donna Gates’s Body Ecology Diet.
From Longevity Now: A Comprehensive Approach to Healthy Hormones, Detoxification, Super Immunity, Reversing Calcification, and Total Rejuvenation by David Wolfe, published by North Atlantic Books. Copyright © 2013 David Wolfe. Reprinted by kind permission of publisher.