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    Gut Flora and Good Health

    Posted by: Gillian Day BHSc. Comp Med, Adv Dip Nat, AFMCP Grad

    Gut Flora and Good Health

    A properly functioning gut is absolutely critical to good health. This has been a key area of interest and research within the medical world globablly for the past 30 years, and the results are truly impressive; not only for our Gastrointestinal health but also the impact these trillions of bacteria have on our entire body. It is widely accepted that we are more bug than human and there are 10 times as many bacterial cells than human cells in the body. In fact, we have roughly 4 kg’s of bacteria within the large intestine of a healthy adult alone! A diet high in good quality, unprocessed plant based foods is the ideal source of nutrients to feed these trillions of gut bacteria. However, this delicate balance can easily be interrupted by our ‘average western’ diets high in processed foods, sugar and alcohol and medicines (including antibiotics), GI diseases, and other external lifestyle toxins e.g. pollution. Gut flora requires both prebiotics and probiotics to be in harmony. Probiotics will predominantly add to the number, or quantity of our gut bacteria. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. They are good for your health and come in different strengths and strains. Foods as well can have a probiotic effect including; sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, yoghurt, and miso. Prebiotics are a little different in that they don’t add to the quantity of gut bacteria – however they do add to the strength and integrity of the gut bacteria, making them strong and robust. Basically, prebiotics are designed to stimulate and improve existing microbiota in the gut. Many foods are rich in prebiotics and include; bananas, artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, tofu and other fermented soy products. Grains such as barley, flaxseed and oats are also good sources of prebiotics. The impact of prebiotics and probiotics will not only be felt within the gastrointestinal tract but will enhance the entire function of the body. Problems associated with the gut, and an imbalance in gut flora can cause a lot more than a few aches, mild gas, some bloating and/or diarrhoea. The gut – our personal microbiome is linked to a number of  bodily systems including our immune system, our nervous system and our integumentary, or skin system and quite often improving the health of the gut can have an impact on recurring colds and flu, improving sleep quality and mood, eczema, allergies and psoriasis. When our body’s gut flora is compromised in any way, we will require a continuous daily dose of pre and probiotics to repair in the short term, or as a daily maintenance for long term conditions, and minimizing side effects. When taking medications (specially antibiotics) it is suggested that twice daily, 2 ½ hours after administration, you should take both a pre and probiotic supplement.

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