“All diseases begin in the gut”. The Father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, made this statement more than two thousand years ago. The more we learn with our modern scientific tools, the more we realize just how correct Hippocrates was: all diseases do begin in the gut. Science has discovered that about 90% of all cells and all genetic material of the human body belongs to the gut flora - a mixture of various microbes, which live inside our digestive tract. So, in reality your body is just a shell, providing a habitat for this mass of micro-creatures living inside you; and their role in your health and physiology is monumental. Our modern world poses many dangers for human gut flora, and once it is damaged, the health of the whole body enters a downward slide towards disease.
What is the gut?
A "gut feeling" or a "gut reaction" to something is a description of a sense you have about it without knowing why. This probably comes from the fact that many people experience their emotions in their stomach or gut area. Think about where you would physically feel a "gut feeling." Research has shown that the network of neurons lining our guts is so extensive that it has now been nicknamed our "second brain" or "other brain." This gut "brain" doesn't think for us, but it does play a key role in certain diseases and communicates with the brain in our skulls.
Our "second brain" is known as the enteric nervous system. It is a collection of neurons in the gastrointestinal tract. Its role is to manage every aspect of digestion in all the organs of the gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. It uses over 100 million neurons and some of the same chemicals things that can be found in your "other" brain, including neurotransmitters and neuropeptides.
Within your gastrointestinal tract, there is intestinal microflora or microbiota. This complex ecosystem contains over 400 bacterial species. Small amounts can be found in your stomach and small intestines, but the majority is found in your colon. The intestinal microflora aid in digestion, synthesize vitamins and nutrients, metabolize some medications, support the development and functioning of the gut, and enhance the immune system.
How can we help keep the Gut healthy?
The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning "promoting" and biotic, meaning "life." There is some debate about how to define probiotics. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." Yes, they are actually alive, and most of these microorganisms are bacteria. Most people think of antibiotics and antibacterial products when you mention bacteria. Both of those kill bacteria so why would you want to consume anything that has live bacteria in it? It's all about balance.
Our digestive system normally has what we would call "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria. Maintaining the correct balance between the "good" bacteria and the "bad" bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Things like medications, diet, diseases, and your environment can upset that balance. Is your body able to handle this on its own or do you need to start including probiotics in your diet?
Probiotics can help or prevent with the following conditions:
yeast infections, urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, traveler's diarrhea, diarrhea resulting from Clostridium difficile, treating lactose intolerance, skin disorders (fever blisters, eczema, acne, and canker sores), and prevention of respiratory infections.
Advantages of Probiotics
Probiotics are believed to protect us in two ways. The first is the role that they play in our digestive tract. We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
When the digestive tract is healthy, it filters out and eliminates things that can damage it, such as harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste products. On the flip side, it takes in the things that our body needs (nutrients from food and water) and absorbs and helps deliver them to the cells where they are needed.
The idea is not to kill off all of the bad bacteria. Our body does have a need for the bad ones and the good ones. The problem is when the balance is shifted to have more bad than good. An imbalance has been associated with diarrhea, urinary tract infections, muscle pain, and fatigue.
The other way that probiotics help is the impact that they have on our immune system. Some believe that this role is the most important. Our immune system is our protection against germs. When it doesn't function properly, we can suffer from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders (for example, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis), and infections (for example, infectious diarrhea, Helicobacter pylori, skin infections, and vaginal infections). By maintaining the correct balance from birth, the hope would be to prevent these ailments. Our immune system can benefit anytime that balanced is restored, so it's never too late. To learn more about probiotics and what they can do for you, call to make an appointment with one of Orthomolecular Nutrition’s practitioners today. (727)518-9808