When we are born, our gut is pure - free of any bad bacteria - like a garden free of weeds. But as we grow and are exposed to “life,” a lot of the good bacteria is replaced with bad stuff. Like an untended garden where the weeds take over, bad bacteria can take over in our intestines, creating all sorts of problems.
Where do the bad guys come from?
As you mature, you're faced with many threats to the beneficial bacteria in your gut... from chlorinated drinking water... to overly-processed foods; antibiotics, steroids, birth control, chemotherapy, diabetes, stress, low thyroid and much more. As these enemies infiltrate the gut, they destroy the good bacteria and can result in many health challenges. Beneficial bacteria are necessary to re-establish or rebalance intestinal microflora. This is where probiotics can have a profound effect... not just on your GI health, but on your overall health as well.
Since 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, it behooves us to be sure that we are keeping a healthy supply of the good guys in there.
What do friendly bacteria do for us?
First of all, they keep our immune system strong. They also are helpful for yeast infections, infections of any type, immune issues, digestive issues, bowel health (constipation/diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s), skin issues and much more. They should also be taken along with &/or after antibiotics to replenish “good” bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics.
Where do we get beneficial bacteria?
I am sure you have heard the term “probiotics”. It seems to be all the buzz these days. The term probiotic literally means "good for life." Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are the “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria” that benefit the colon and therefore the immune system.
They are produced for human consumption most often in dairy products containing two types of microbes, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. More recently, probiotic dietary supplements are becoming popular as a way to balance and promote a healthy digestive system.
However, there are a few things to be aware of when talking about adding probiotics to your diet. There are a lot of ads on TV promoting the use of probiotics in such products as Activia, or the supplement TruBiotics touted by Erin Andrews. In fact there are many products on the market that contain good bacteria. However, in the case of yogurt for example, you would have to eat a lot of it to see any benefit.
At the TruBiotics web site, it says that they “assure the number of probiotic bacteria are live and active up to the product expiration date, so you know how many good bacteria you’re putting in your body with every capsule.” It sounds good, but they really have no idea how many are still alive when the product is consumed or how many actually make it to the colon; moreover, while we know probiotics absolutely have nutritional value, what you see on the label may NOT be what you get. In fact, two researchers at Bastyr University in Washington recently tested a wide variety of probiotic supplements and found that in four out of twenty products no sign of living friendly bacteria was present.
The unfortunate truth is that too many probiotic supplements vary widely in quality and potency and cannot survive harsh stomach acid in order to get to your intestines.The key to an optimal probiotic formula is through science-backed research by a qualified non-biased laboratory... and through a manufacturer with rigorous high-quality process standards in place.
The most important fact is that when you consume probiotics in a form that is not protected from the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzyme pepsin of the stomach, such as in yogurts or non-enteric coated capsules, as much as 90% of the probiotic is destroyed.
But, do not despair! There are some good probiotic products out there. And I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat yogurt. But I believe supplementation with a good-quality probiotic is the best way to ensure that you are getting enough of the good guys to make a difference. Look for a company that uses science-backed research, conducts their own quality tests and has a product that is properly encapsulated to make it through the stomach and into the intestines.
Here’s to a happy colon!