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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Importance of Friendly Intestinal Bacteria

[Written By Dr. Ben Kim on November 20, 2004 Natural Health Care]

One of the most important steps that you can take to improve your health, regardless of your current situation and health challenges, is to make sure that your intestines have plenty of friendly bacteria.

Incredibly, you have more bacteria and other microorganisms living in your digestive passageway than you have cells in your entire body. These microorganisms total approximately 100 trillion, and collectively weigh between three to five pounds in the average adult.

Friendly bacteria in your gut do the following :

a) Stimulate the production of antibodies in your blood, increasing your immune system strength and capacity to deal with toxins, allergens, harmful microorganisms, and incompletely digested protein

b) Produce nutrients that are essential to your health like Vitamin B12 & Vitamin K

c) Take up space and resources in your gut, which helps to prevent infection by harmful bacteria, fungi, and parasites

d) Produce natural antibiotics, acids, and hydrogen peroxide, which also help to protect you against infection by harmful microorganisms, including bacteria that can cause food poisoning

e) Help to digest food

You know that your skin is a barrier that helps to protect your blood and inner organs against harmful materials in the environment. Your digestive passageway is no different. Your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon make up one long tube that must act like your skin to protect your blood and inner organs against harmful materials. In fact, the lining of your digestive passageway is continuous with your skin at your mouth and your anus, making your skin and the lining of your digestive passageway one continuous barrier that protects your blood and inner organs against harmful substances in the environment.

Friendly bacteria are great helpers to the lining of your digestive passageway in preventing harmful substances and microorganisms in the food you eat and the air that you breathe from getting into your blood and causing damage to your organs.

Having a large population of friendly bacteria in the digestive passageway has been shown to do the following :

a) Reduce and eliminate acne, eczema, psoriasis, food allergy-related hives, and other skin conditions

b) Provide lasting protection against asthma

c) Provide protection against food allergies, eliminating symptoms like joint pain, nasal congestion, snoring, ear infections, and itchy skin

d) Reduce or eliminate seasonal allergies like hay fever

e) Improve digestion and normalize bowel movements

f) Significantly improve the strength of your immune system


How do bacteria reach your gut in the first place ?

As a baby, your digestive passageway received its first dose of bacteria from your mother’s vaginal canal as you entered the world. If you were breastfed, you received large quantities of bacteria from your mother’s milk. Since you were a tiny infant, your digestive passageway has received bacteria every single day from air and food.

Today, the balance between friendly bacteria and harmful microorganisms living in your gut is the result of all of your food and lifestyle choices. The healthier your choices, the more friendly bacteria you have living inside of you.

Traditionally, cultures throughout the world have been exposed to good bacteria through lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chee, pickled cucumbers, fruit chutneys, miso, yogurt, cheese, kefir, and kvass. While these foods can provide friendly bacteria, they can also come with harmful microorganisms, as there is no practical way to use only beneficial bacteria in preparing these lacto-fermented foods.

An excellent source of friendly bacteria is healthy soil. We are exposed to countless species of friendly bacteria when we are outdoors, playing and working in relatively unpolluted areas. Gardening and hiking in the woods are two of the best ways of exposing yourself to friendly bacteria on a regular basis. In fact, the best probiotic (friendly intestinal bacteria) supplements that I know of were originally created with strains of bacteria that were found in healthy soil.

If you choose to use a probiotic supplement, please do your research before buying one from your local health food store. Studies have shown that there is great variance in the quality of different probiotic supplements, with many of them providing very few numbers of bacteria that can actually reach your gut and flourish there.

A good probiotic should come with food that the bacteria can use to stay alive. My family and I use a super green food product, which has the most effective and comprehensive combination of friendly bacteria that I have ever tried, in a base of plenty of nutrient-rich greens that keep the bacteria strong and healthy. This is the one health product that I recommend without hesitation to guests of our fasting clinic and people who ask me for help with their health challenges.

Once you ensure steady exposure to friendly bacteria, it is important that you avoid or minimize the following most common causes of destroying friendly intestinal bacteria :

* Use of antibiotics without a life-threatening or limb-threatening situation
* Use of foods that are contaminated with antibiotics and antibiotic residues, mainly factory farmed animal foods
* Drinking chlorinated water
* Swimming in chlorinated pools
* Eating foods and beverages that have sugar or other concentrated sweeteners
* Regular consumption of refined and processed foods like cookies, chips, pastries, and prepackaged goods
* Regular consumption of alcohol
* Not chewing your food until liquid
* Not learning to manage stress
* Use of steroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone
* Use of antacids and other acid-inhibiting drugs
* Use of laxatives
* Use of birth control pills

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