Holistic Approach to Wellness
Did you know we have 100 times more bacteria in our body than we have cells? 100 trillion to be exact. The amazing thing is that each of us has a different signature of bacteria. No two people have the exact same. Fascinating!
Beneficial bacteria in your digestive system contribute not just to your digestive health, but your overall health. Some of the byproducts of beneficial bacteria that help create a healthy acidic environment in the colon are acetic and lactic acids. This is why it’s helpful to eat lactic-acid fermented foods in solving digestive problems. Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics are also key in healing a compromised immune system – GI track.
Beneficial Bacteria Normalize Bowel Movements
Good bacteria can decrease the time it takes for waste products to move through the digestive system-in other words, they can correct constipation. Good bacteria can also stop diarrhea.
Beneficial Bacteria Eliminate Gas Problems and Sweetens Your Breath
Bad breath is frequently caused when the wrong bacteria take over in the colon and produce foul smelling waste products and excessive gas. These gases can be expelled through the digestive tract, or they can be reabsorbed into the blood, released in the lungs, and exhaled. All the breath mints in the world won’t correct bad breath caused by a bowel problem.
Beneficial Bacteria Help Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Much of the cholesterol produced by the liver is converted into bile acids, which are stored in the gallbladder and used to help digest fats. Ultimately these acids end up in the colon where they are either destroyed or excreted in bowel movements.
However, people who don’t consume an adequate amount of fiber in their diet harbor millions of bacteria in the colon that attack bile acids. These bacteria break the acids down into several substances, including a toxic product called lithocholate-which causes the liver to convert less cholesterol to bile acids. This leads to a couple of serious problems. First, cholesterol begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. Second, the body excretes less cholesterol because it’s not made into the bile acid that never reaches the colon. This is especially dangerous because bowel movements are the body’s main method of ridding the body of unwanted cholesterol.
Eating a high-fiber diet alters the type of bacteria in the colon. High-fiber diets promote beneficial bacteria that leave passing bile acids intact. As a result, your body excretes more cholesterol and in effect is “tricked” into creating more bile acids. A high-fiber diet and good bacterial flora can lower blood cholesterol levels and even improve fat digestion.
Beneficial Bacteria Help Regulate Hormone Levels
There is a connection between bacterial flora and hormone levels. (Although we are relating to estrogen here, a similar process occurs with many other hormones, as well as folic acid, vitamin B12, bile acids, cholesterol, and vitamin D.)
As much as 60 percent of the estrogen circulating in the blood is picked up by the liver and “deactivated.” It is then dumped into the gallbladder and later released with bile into the intestines. There, beneficial bacteria “reactivate” the estrogen, and the estrogen is reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
When the bacterial flora is out of balance, the estrogen is neither reactivated nor reabsorbed. Instead, it is lost in the stool. Low estrogen levels have been linked to osteoporosis, PMS, water retention, breast soreness, severe menstrual cramps and heavy flow, slow menstrual cycles, migraine headaches, etc.
Beneficial Bacteria Aid in the Formation of Certain Vitamins
These include vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and the formation of new bone.
Beneficial Bacteria Aid in the Production of the Enzyme Lactase
Our bodies need a sufficient supply of digestive enzymes in order to break down food efficiently and effectively. Lactase is necessary to digest milk and milk products. Without it, an intolerance to dairy products is almost guaranteed.
Beneficial Bacteria Bolster the Immune System
Pathogenic bacteria can enter your digestive system through your nose and mouth, and if they survive the trip through the acids and enzymes of the upper GI tract, they’ll find a perfect home in your colon. It’s a warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment that lacks oxygen and strong digestive fluids, making it an ideal place for bacteria to grow and flourish.
Without balanced bacteria in your colon, these pathogenic bacteria can gain a true foothold and will then constantly spew their toxic metabolites into your body. This places your immune system in a constant battle just to keep things under control.
Bottom line – Having a sufficient population of friendly bacteria in your bowels means your immune system won’t have to work overtime, boosting its overall performance.
Lifestyle choices affect the bacterial balance in your digestive system
The balance between the beneficial bacteria and bad bacteria living in your digestive system is influenced by a number of factors, including the foods you eat, the medications you take, and the environment you live in. Lifestyle choices and circumstances that promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria include:
A lack of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system is linked to many health conditions
Your symptoms generally are a good indication of whether you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive system. The following is a partial list of common health problems associated with inadequate beneficial bacteria:
Besides symptoms, another good indicator of your bowel health is the pH of your stool. The pH scale measures how acidic or how alkaline something is. It runs from 0(most acidic reading) to 14 (most alkaline reading). The midpoint 7 is neutral (like distilled water). The PH of your stool should be slightly acidic.
FOODS THAT INCREASE GOOD GUT BACTERIA
Kimchi, which is a mix of veggies that have been left to ferment with water and some spices such as red peppers. It is a Korean version of sauerkraut, and is extremely rich in enzymes, vitamins, minerals and probiotics to aid in gut health. Just one or two tablespoons is all you need to make a dramatic improvement in your digestive system. Kimchi usually includes cabbage, onions, garlic and red peppers. Some versions also include ginger, celery, carrots and salt. Kimchi is a great source of vitamins A and C, so you can totally count it as a serving of veggies for the day! Add it on salads, veggie or as a topping for any cooked dish, or by itself!
Sauerkraut is an America classic made from just cabbage, salt and water which is left to ferment to produce probiotics and aid in food preservation. Though most of think of it as a topping for hot dogs, original sauerkraut was created to be a way to preserve food during times of famine and treat gut-related illness in the early 1900s. Sauerkraut adds a delicious zesty element to dishes that helps fight cravings and aid digestion of other foods.
Kefir is made from kefir grains, which aren’t really grains, but a collection of beneficial bacterial yeasts. Kefir grains are fermented with liquid to produce kefir. Dairy based kefir is similar to yogurt, though much richer in probiotics than yogurt is. You can buy kefir grains online or in stores and make your own kefir using any type of liquid medium such as dairy milk, goats milk, coconut milk, almond milk, or coconut water which is beneficial for those who can’t have cows milk like myself. The only thing, like yogurt is to watch the sugars if buying off the shelf.
Did you know the common pickle is an excellent source of probiotics? It’s true! Just one tablespoon of natural pickles or one pickle strip a day is a great way to add good bacteria to your gut. The important part is to buy a natural relish, without added sugars, food coloring, preservatives or vinegar, and the same goes for pickles. One of the best places to buy fermented food is your local farmers market.
Certain veggies like asparagus have wonderful benefits for your digestive health. Asparagus contains a natural prebiotic fiber known as inulin. Inulin is special because the fibers in it feed the good bacteria in your gut and help remove the harmful ones from your digestive tract. Asparagus has 4 grams of fiber per serving and is low in calories. It is also a wonderful source of Vitamins A and C, and also rich in folate, an important B vitamin for women. Who doesn’t love some grilled asparagus? Yum!
Onions are another prebiotic food rich in inulin. Onions also have some extra digestive benefits to them. Onions are a great source of sulfur, which acts like a weapon against harmful bacteria in the gut, helping to remove it from the body, and also removes toxins from the liver. Garlic offers this same benefit. Onions are a great way to fight off yeast in the body and any time you suffer carb cravings or yeast infections, try making some onion soup. All you do is add 3 cups of water with 1 cup chopped onions, veggie broth, some chopped celery, a garlic clove, some chopped carrots and some Himalayan sea salt, oregano and bay leaves. Cook it in a slow cooker to let the flavors really set in too. Eat this once a day and your immune system and digestive system will be back on track in no time!
I love canned artichoke hearts! You can buy them whole and cook them yourself or buy the organic canned varieties that have BPA free liners or glass containers. They are easy to toss on salads and are so wonderful for your digestive health. Artichokes aren’t just deliciously tangy and somewhat sweet, but also very high in inulin, that special prebiotic I mentioned. It feeds all the healthy bacteria in your digestive system and increases the potency of any probiotics you are taking. Inulin found in artichokes also helps to produce more good bacteria in your gut. Eaten with a diet rich in probiotic foods will help produce the best results of all, so be sure to get in as many prebiotic and probiotic foods as virtually possible.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
One of the most versatile, healing foods! Most vinegars are actually harmful for your digestive health. They are hard on the liver, and aren’t raw, therefore they produce a form of alcohol after they are made. This feeds yeasts, harmful bacteria and creates a huge burden for the liver to remove. Raw apple cider vinegar is completely different. Since it is raw, it is rich in enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics. It is a great source of Vitamin C, and is also a natural diuretic if you suffer bloating and water weight from digestive issues. This special vinegar is actually helpful to your liver and helps it remove toxins faster and more efficiently. I suggest buying an organic brand such as Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, which contains “the mother”, which is the beneficial yeast used to produce the probiotics in this potent elixir. Use it on salads instead of dressing, or to make your own salad dressing. You can also add it to homemade juices, smoothies, and you only need 1 tablespoon per day to make a difference.
There are several stool tests that can be ran and pricing varies. At Karmic Health we like to work with our patients first to see what test makes sense to run. A few examples would be:
GI Panel including stool culture for yeast and fungi or can be ran on its own.
GI Pathogen Screen with or without H. Pylori Antigen