Take care of one your largest vital organ
I think it’s a pretty fair statement to say that most of us want our organs to work right.
After all, where would you be without organs like your heart, your brain, your lungs or your liver?
Permanently horizontal, there’s where.
But there’s another “organ” that’s a part of you that most people don’t think about…but it can even be said that it’s your “largest” organ!
And its job description includes fighting diseases like cancer, producing vitamins and even helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, plus much more.
“It” is your microbiome—in other words, your body’s population of friendly, helpful bacteria.
Although your microbiome inhabitants can’t be seen with the naked eye (they’re microscopic), they outnumber ALL of your other cells by 10 to 1!
You have about 10 trillion human cells that make up YOU, but about 100 trillion bacterium—10 times as many!
And although the vast majority of them live in your intestinal tract, they also live in your skin (both the inner and outer layers) in your mouth, in your saliva and more.
When most people think about their friendly flora, they think “gas and constipation relief.”
Yes, that’s true—having a strong population of beneficial inhabitants can help keep your bowel movements regular and curb gas, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Hold on to your hat because here are some of its other impressive, crucial functions:
Having a healthy balance of intestinal flora helps to enhance your absorption of nutrients from your food and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Plus these hard-working little guys also help produce vitamins for you as well!
Your gut flora are directly involved in the production of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, D and K.
Certain beneficial bacterial strains have been shown to be helpful in fighting and preventing ulcers.
Studies have established that the Lactobacillus strains L. acidophilus, L. salivarius and L. casei can slow and even help kill H. pylori (the bacteria that causes most ulcers).
One study was conducted with a group of mice where they were given L. salivarius for a few days, then they were fed H. pylori. The researchers noted that the mice were completely protected from H. pylori infection!
Further studies were done with mice already infected with H. pylori. Feeding them L. salivarius after infection reduced the presence of H. pylori bacteria by more than 99%.
Similar exciting results have been seen in human studies:
In a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers took a group of 70 adults who tested positive for H. pylori, but had no ulcer symptoms.
For a six-week period, 59 of the 70 adults were given yogurt to which effective doses of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis were added, and the other 11 just drank ordinary milk.
After the 6 weeks the H. pylori levels in the probiotic-laced yogurt group were lowered significantly, whereas the milk drinkers saw no change.
Two months after the study, after the yogurt group stopped taking the probiotics, their H. pylori levels had again increased.
Lower blood cholesterol
Beneficial bacteria can help reduce blood cholesterol by creating acids that counter cholesterol production.
Plus they break down bile acids so your liver has to use up excess cholesterol is used up to make more. And certain bacterial strains have been shown to even “eat” excess cholesterol!
In addition, your friendly flora help to keep your bowel movements smooth and regular, which helps your body eliminate old- worn out cholesterol from the intestinal tract (instead of risking reabsorption of the cholesterol into your bloodstream).
Protection from radiation damage
Friendly bacteria can protect your stomach from radiation damage too.
Scientists from Washington University conducted a study comparing radiation effects on mice by giving a group of them probiotics before and after exposure. To their surprise, the probiotic group was protected against radioactive damage in their intestines.
Typically, cancer patients receiving radiation treatment experience intestinal damage because radiation destroys both healthy and cancerous cells. When probiotics were introduced into the protocol, however, the damage appears to have been dramatically reduced!
Healthy gut, happy mind
Bacteria have also been identified as major players in the regulation of your mood and memory.
Scientists have long studied what is called the brain-gut axis. The brain and the gut are definitely connected and the health of one in turn affects the health of the other.
Research has shown that problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, eventually leading to issues like anxiety and depression.
But the flip side can also be true—better, healthier bacteria can help encourage better mental health!
According to an article published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the authors suggested that even severe and chronic mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), might be eliminated through the use of probiotics!
Here are some common symptoms associated with imbalanced flora--see how many apply to you:
Frequent tiredness and/or fatigue
Frequent constipation and/or diarrhea
Repeated infections, including UTIs, vaginal yeast infections, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, sinus infections, etc.
Gas and bloating
Memory problems, anxiety or depression
Catching more than one cold per year
Skin breakouts, cold sores
Vague aches and pains that can't otherwise be explained
All of these are indicative of having dysbiosis--in other words, harmful bacteria have taken over and outnumbered the good guys.
And if you have been formally diagnosed with any of these conditions, imbalanced flora is practically a given:
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
IBD (Crohn's and ulcerative colitis)
Allergies and asthma
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Eczema and psoriasis
Acne and skin rashes
Restore your bacterial health with the "4 R's"
The good news is you can help restore the health of YOUR body's microbiome by using the "4 R" approach:
This involves removal and avoidance of things that can greatly harm your friendly flora. These can include, but are not limited to:
Foods that you are sensitive or allergic to
Excessive alcohol (especially beer)
Refined carbs--including sugar, flour, donuts, bagels, hamburger and hot dog buns, white rice, cookies, pastries, cakes, snack chips, pretzels, candy, etc.
Acid reducing medications (both OTC and prescription)
Regularly lacking adequate sleep
Step 2 is to help reverse dysbiosis by replacing and rebuilding your supply of beneficial bacteria, and this is done with a probiotic supplement
Reinforcing a healthy flora balance means nourishing your friendly bacteria (while starving the bad guys!) and having smooth digestion to help keep your intestinal tract squeaky clean and avoid waste and harmful bacteria build up. This involves eating foods that naturally feed your friendly flora like fresh vegetables and whole grains, plus keeping ALL of your meals easy to digest.
The final step of the 4 R approach to a healthy microbiome is to help repair any intestinal damage that you may have from harmful bacteria and medications.
In addition to a healthy diet like I mentioned in number 3 above, Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been shown to help enhance intestinal health.
Omega-3 EFAs are abundant in fatty fish, but since many people are not fish fans, and still many more are concerned about pollution and contamination, fish oil supplements are a convenient way to get the Omega-3 EFAs you want
Studies show Omega-3 EFAs are also helpful against joint aches and pains, brain health and even high blood pressure!
Remember, your microbiome is arguably your largest, most vital organ. If you don't have a healthy population of beneficial bacteria, it's only a matter of time before the rest of your health can start to crumble!
Taking good care of your microbiome will help keep the rest of YOU feeling good for years to come!
PS: Always be sure to let your doctor or healthcare provider know what supplements you are taking.