Why is gut flora important? Research is beginning to show that “good” bacteria play hundreds, of roles in maintaining our health.
Here are five:
- VIT B - Bacteria in our intestinal tracts produce B vitamins and vitamin K. These vitamins play important roles in energy metabolism (producing energy from food), maintaining the health of the nervous system, and clotting blood.
- FIBER - Bacteria in the large intestine digest fiber and use it to produce chemicals that feed and protect the intestinal lining. This lining plays key roles in preventing infection, boosting immunity, and reducing inflammation. If the lining breaks down, chemicals that should never leave the intestines end up in the bloodstream, which can lead to inflammation or an overactive immune response.
- SEROTONIN - Gut floral produce most of the body’s serotonin, a key neurotransmitter. Scientists are beginning to see connections between the health of the gut and the health and functioning of the brain.
- ENZYMES - Intestinal bacteria produce enzymes that metabolize drugs, hormones and toxins. In addition, they produce chemicals that “communicate” with the liver regarding production of enzymes used in detoxification.
- WEIGHT MANAGEMENT - Gut bacteria may play a role in obesity. Some animal studies, and now a few human studies, have shown that animals or humans deficient in certain bacteria may be more prone to gain weight.
Can we “improve” our gut flora? And should we even try? Yes! Here are 3 things you can do:
- Eat foods that include natural probiotics (good bacteria). These include yogurt and fermented foods, such as kefir and sauerkraut. You can buy high-quality yogurt and kefir at the grocery store, but you can make them too.
- Eat foods that include natural prebiotics. PREbiotics feed the PRObiotics. Plant fiber feeds the bacteria in the large intestine, and they in turn produce chemicals that protect the intestinal lining. Plantain flour and cassava flour are very high in prebiotics.
- Take antibiotics only when necessary. Antibiotics can significantly alter the gut flora, killing off beneficial bacteria and providing an “opening” for harmful bacteria to move in and “set up shop.” When you do take antibiotics, make sure you are getting probiotics and prebiotics and take steps during and after treatment to re-establish a healthy gut microflora.