Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bacteria Worth Embracing!

Oh honestly, first I write about poop, then good bacteria?  Well, yes. They are actually connected.

We all have bacteria in our gut.  This (normally) good bacteria act as microscopic bouncers for the bowels, waving in the good, desirable nutrients and slamming the door on dangerous viruses and killer bugs.  This is a good team to have working well for you.  And huge!  One hundred trillion bacteria can cram inside the average person.  If they weren't there, you couldn't digest any food.  But even more importantly they help power 60% of the body's immune system.  Yes, the immune system (most of it) is right there in that gut! 

(As an aside, which will be another blog someday, it is said that our intuition center is ALSO located in the gut - which brings up the old saying "I had a gut feeling" or "I could feel it in my gut" --- the gut instinct thing is very real!)

Ok, so we have all these wonderful bacteria that serve us well.  Balancing our intestinal microflora should be our top priority because truth is we would be dead without them!  But before you go thinking you have to clean yourself out, rest assured that poop is roughly 60% bacteria.  If ever there was a true recycling center it would be your colon.  These bacteria will see what nutrient castoffs they can claim and they break down otherwise indigestible plant fibers, forage for carbohydrates and salvage calories. 

"A healthy body will recycle every single molecule it can from the bowel", says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, nutritionist and founder of the National Institute of Whole Health.  "Essentially the gut is a huge metabolic furnace."

What can really wreck this beautiful system is antibiotics.  They pose a major threat to our microbial balance because they destroy all kinds of bacteria.  If it destroys too much of your good bacteria, this is a major opportunity for the "bad guys" to take over and start growing like crazy.   You will definitely know when this is happening!   Antibiotics have been likened to an atomic bomb going off in the intestines.  It is so critical that you give your body good bacteria (yogurt, kefir. probiotics) to replenish good bacteria and reclaim the balance.  The longer you are on antibiotics the more consistently you should keep on replenishing with probiotics. 

Antibiotics are far from the only thing that can upset this delicate balance of bacteria.  Stress can damage the gut's flora in a couple of ways.  Stress can slow the body's ability to heal tiny fissures in the intestinal lining.  Then bacteria will sneak through the openings and settle inside the gut's walls where they can cause inflammation.    Stress can also speed up or slow down contractions in the small intestine affecting the rate food moves through the system.

Stress can include excessive anger or fear.  Just know that the more stressed out you are, the more suppressed your immune systems gets, which gives all the bad bacteria a big opportunity to take over and multiply.  I am, unfortunately, a poster child for this.  The year my son went off to war in Iraq was the most stressed, fearful nightmare of my entire life.  All normalcy went out the window - I paid no attention to what I ate, didn't sleep, and was wired up beyond imagining.

Somehow or other I kept this insanity going during his entire deployment.  After he came home and I started to relax a bit, I felt lousy.  This got worse and worse and long story short 5 months after he got home I had a large section of my bowel removed.  I had developed a horrendous infection and it was so bad it permanently damaged my sigmoid colon - almost two feet of it.  Out it came.

I'm fine now but ever so aware of stress and what it can do to one's body.  Some people would be affected in other parts of their body - it seems to target whatever weak spot you have.  Inflammation is the cause of most disease, be it heart disease or colon or whatever.  Perhaps it seems from the blog The Poop on Poop and this one that I have an unusual interest in this area - you bet I do!  It's personal.  But it is also an area (or issue) most people ignore until it may be too late.  If I knew then what I know now how differently I may have gone through that awful year!  Since it cost me dearly, the lesson has been well-learned and I take every opportunity to tell people to pay attention, watch out, learn and listen to what your body tells you.  It really matters!

The human digestive system has not changed in thousands of years, but our diet sure has!  If you are not taking antibiotics, chill out regularly (not stressed) and you STILL have "issues" you might want to look at your diet.  The human bowel is designed for high-water, high-fiber, and high-nutrient-content foods found in the plant world.  Are you getting enough fruits and veggies?  How are you handling stress?  Do you exercise enough - get proper sleep - know how to relax?

Diets that have large doses of animal protein, processed foods, (especially flours and sugars which raise the numbers of harmful bacteria) can cause the body to struggle to break down these substances and the gut produces toxic byproducts that can make us sick. 

It doesn't matter if the imbalance is caused by pills, diet or stress - an unhealthy gut spells trouble for the whole body.  Scientific research is finding out more and more that there is a distinct parallel between bacterial imbalance and gastrointestinal diseases. If you have been diagnosed with a bowel disease, or suspect you may have one, probiotics are your potential savior. 

Doctors prescribing antibiotics or any drugs for intestinal distress/disease are beginning to recognize the importance of coupling this with treatment with probiotics.  Researchers are trying probiotics to treat eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and to prevent vaginal and urinary tract infections.  (In the past, whenever I took antibiotics for anything, I always had to add in the kefir or yogurt with live cultures.  Failing to do so caused not only bowel distress, but vaginal yeast infections and sometimes urinary problems as well.)

For many people, a daily quality probiotic supplement is a good idea, especially to battle chronic gastric complaints, such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.  .  Some with chronic illness may need probiotics for an extended duration because the bacteria don't stay inside of us for that long. 

So there are good bacteria, and bad.   Remember, do not freak out that there is bad bacteria in your colon - it is supposed to be there!   Keep bacteria balanced and your body will thank you with a well functioning immune system and over-all good health!   And that is what we all want!  I'm sure you had a gut feeling about this all the while you were reading this blog, right?

Trust your gut.  AND take care of it!

18 comments:

  1. I eat extremely well & exercise heavily. Stress is the tricky one. About your son going off to war in Iraq, causing you all that stress. I thought when the kids left home & were on their own, I would be free from worry. Not true. Then there's the grandchildren to fret over, tho' by then it's not a problem. I've learned that what i worried about never happened.
    Your son is alive & safe.

    bikehikebabe
    aka Cynthia

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    1. Hi Cynthia! I was never a worrier - ever - til the whole Iraq thing. I didn't support that invasion one bit so I was rattled from the start and it seemed absolutely unreal I could be sacrificing my only son for political crap that was wrong! Of course in hindsight worry seems silly. Fear can get a good grip on you! I did a lifetime of worry in that one year. It's over.

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  2. Your opening line, "...poop and then bacteria..." cracked me up!

    This is a great post. I talk with my clients about their digestive system being akin to a pilot light -- something we don't want to have go out on us!

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    1. Hi Laurie! I laugh a LOT and keep the humor front and center - it's actually hard for me to write without it! Though admitedly I have quite a sarcastic bent, it's meant to be fun. Love the pilot light!

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  3. How does one get one's gravatar displayed?

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    1. I see from these comments that you're the only one with her gravatar shown. How did YOU do it?

      bikehikebabe

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  4. "I asked, 'How does one get one's gravatar displayed?' in a comment. Our gravatars are linked to our e-mail addresses, which she doesn't ask for." Cheerful Monk

    Yeah, that's what I wanted to know. I was hoping to get my mug there when I told you that I make sauerkraut. I use 1/2 a probiotic capsule with mashed 1/2 cabbage for a day at 70 degrees. Then 5 cabbages shredded, mixed with this at 60 degrees. Can't tell you the name of probiotic. My friend has the bottle we split. She has 5 children so uses a whole capsule & 10 heads of shredded cabbage.
    bikehikebabe or Cynthia

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    1. Hi Cynthia! Sounds like a Donna Gates recipe? She's huge into fermented foods with several books out. Probiotics do a body good!

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  5. Years ago I learned that we needed to be pooping at least three times a day. And not hard little rabbit poops either. Being regular is one of the best things that I did for myself. Feels like I lost an inner tire and I no longer feel bloated all the time. Keep talking about guts and butts SuZen!!

    xxoo

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    1. Hi Peggy! LOL guts and butts - love it! I hate bloat - like you're fat with gas only. When I was recovering from my surgery I actually kept a poop diary in the bathroom. That was one damn long recovery period and I will never take my colon for granted - I promised God many times, haha!

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  6. I thought this was a perfect follow-up to the poop post:~) I have learned my own gut is a bit temperamental. I do take a probiotic supplement on a regular basis and it has calmed the noisy giant.

    Thanks for this post. I had a gut feeling it would be worth the read. My gut was right:~)

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    1. Hi there Sara, the lady who listens to her gut! I'll bet you follow your instincts (from the gut) easier because of your probiotics calming the giant, so to speak. Good for you!!!

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  7. Nice job Susan,
    We have a probiotic routine and my partner needs to eat yoghurt daily. Exercise is so important to making the gut work correctly.
    My youngest just had a stressful move and I am happy to say the emergency clinic doctor gave her a prescription for an Antibiotic and the probiotic...she went too long and got a yeast infection too...yoghurt is good topically to relieve the itching....
    My partner gets eczema on his fingers too with the Celiac Disease...yoghurt clears it right up

    Now I can not eat yoghurt at all...nor take antibiotics...so eating vegan is working fairly well for me...
    This morning my gut told me to go back to bed...I had had 9 hours but after a glass of water, I just did that very thing...and then when I got up all systems were go and I had the best walk of the whole week.
    I just do not know what to do with myself these days...and I am still not losing weight aargh

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    1. Hi Patricia! Perhaps working on something in your head that you enjoy and can do well would be a good change of pace rather than thinking or dwelling on the things that are not working the way you want? Just a thought. I know when I get down about something, the best thing for me is to dust off the attitude of gratitude and sort of distract myself from what's not working. Hope you are feeling better soon! Sending hugs!

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  8. This is a good reminder. I like to eat miso, which I think contributes to good bacteria in a similar matter as yogurt? Thanks for another positive article, SuZen.

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    1. Hi Kathy! As long as your miso is organic and fermented you would get some benefit of bacterias. It has a lot of good vitamins and minerals in it. As for the "best" probiotic, I'd still go with yogurt, kefir or probiotic supplements. Do be careful with soy products - most soy these days is GMO. Always get the organic!

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