Your Immune System is in Your Gut!
Volume 21 July, 2008
Do you know that 80 % of our immune system is located in the digestive system? Bacterial infections of the urinary/genital tracts, parasite infections, allergies, and a host of gastrointestinal issues are a direct result of an imbalance in gut flora. The good bacteria should out number the bad, 85% to 15%. Unfortunately over use of antibiotics, too much sugar and diet high in carbohydrates, birth control pills, and the few fermented foods ingested, create havoc with our flora balance. This, in turn, tips the scale, throwing this ratio into reverse.
The Vital Functions of Probiotics
The friendly bacteria that reside in your gut have a number of very important functions, including:
As you can see, probiotics perform a wide variety of functions, which renders them useful and beneficial for a number of health concerns, including the prevention or control of:
Probiotics Found Beneficial for Athletes as Well
Another recent study that confirms the use of probiotics to boost your immune function was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year
In that study, probiotic supplements were able
to significantly reduce the number and length of infections suffered by
Are All Probiotics the Same?
Not necessarily, which was also confirmed by this latest study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Here the researchers looked at three different kinds of probiotic bacteria:
They concluded that probiotics seem to have strain-specific anti-inflammatory effects in healthy adults.
In this case, the CRP (a sensitive marker of inflammation) was lower in the Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium groups, showing greater effectiveness as anti-inflammatories, compared to the groups receiving the Bifidobacterium or placebo.
In addition to checking out which bacterial strains are included, other main features you should look for when purchasing a pro biotic supplement are:
The Bacillus Coagulans strain has been proven highly effective. Its main benefits are that it is present in spore form, and survives the acidic environment of your stomach -- ultimately reaching your small intestine where it does the most good. They also survive high temperatures and do not need to be refrigerated, which adds convenience.
Whatís Even Better Than a Probiotic Supplement?
Historically, people used cultured or fermented foods to support their intestinal and overall health, way before the invention of the probiotic supplement.
Cultured foods like yogurt, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria. And fermented foods, such as natto, can give your body the similar benefits of consuming a whole bottle of good bacteria, at a fraction of the cost.
One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria through your diet is to obtain raw milk and convert it to kefir, which is really easy to make at home. All you need is one half packet of the kefir start granules in a quart of raw milk, which you leave at room temperature over night. By the time you wake up in the morning you will likely have kefir. If it hasnít obtained the consistency of yogurt you might want to set it out a bit longer and then store it in the fridge.
A quart of kefir has far more active bacteria than you can possibly purchase in any probiotics supplement. It is also very economical, as you can reuse the kefir from the original quart of milk about ten times before you need to start a new culture pack. Just one starter package of kefir granules can convert about 50 gallons of milk to kefir.
Donít use any pasteurized milk, however, as pasteurized milk has its own set of negative health ramifications and should be avoided at all costs. Also, be aware of commercially fermented products, and instead choose products naturally fermented. These products are generally found in health food stores and Whole Food Coop's.
k, however, as pasteurized milk has its own set of negative health ramifications and should be avoided at all costs. Also, be aware of commercially fermented products, and instead choose products naturally fermented. These products are generally found in health food stores and Whole Food C