by Hayley Chemski-Horwat, MSN, CNRA
Do you have living creatures deep in your belly? Most people have the idea that bacteria—any bacteria—are “bad.” Yet this is certainly not true.
As ‘icky’ as it is to think about … your body (inside and outside) is covered in bacteria. The breeding ground for nearly 500 different species, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or colon contains about three pounds of bacteria. Or at least it should! These bacteria help to ward off other, more harmful, bacteria from invading your body when not wanted (such as those which create diarrhea or vomiting spells).
The bowel is a comfortable home for bacteria because it is dark, warm, and moist. For those of us that suffer from a diet high in sugar, salt, and factory foods with less than ideal fiber intake, our colons are crying for fresh foods (vegetables, fatty acids found in fish) and fermented foods (as below) that can help to maintain healthy flora (or bacteria).
A balance between good and bad bacteria is ideal. If your colon is “out of whack” and full of unhealthy bacteria, eventually they spew into the rest of the body’s circulation wrecking havoc on the immune system. Stress, dietary changes, prescription medications, contaminated food, and chlorinated water, and other factors can also alter the bacterial flora in the intestinal tract.
To maintain a healthy bacterial residency in your colon you need to ingest adequate amounts of probiotics or “good bacteria.” Foods to consider eating that are high in probiotics are: yogurt (Activia is “probiotic infused”), Miso soup, Saurkraut (unpasteurized), soft cheese, sourdough bread, butter-milk, sour pickles, and tempeh.
Probiotic supplements, such as freeze-dried Lactobacillus acidophilus, are useful but not as wholesome as eating probiotic rich foods as above. You can ask your health care provider what supplements he or she recommends, or stop at the pharmacy. Several companies have a probiotic capsule on market to be taken once daily.
Prebiotics are foods that feed the living organisms in probiotics. You can find prebiotics in items such as asparagus, artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes. Try prebiotic foods on their own or with probiotic foods to perhaps give the probiotics a boost.
A scientific basis for the use of probiotics has not yet been published with enough certainty to warrant the prescribed use of probiotics in daily routines. However, some health professionals claim that probiotic use can also improve skin function, bowel regularity, resistance to cedar pollen, excessive gas and bloating, protection of DNA, and also act like antioxidants. Finally probiotics can avoid an upset in good bacteria brought on by prescribed antibiotics.
Maintain a healthy, fresh diet and monitor your food intake daily. Ensure that you’re eating enough of the right bacteria so that bad bugs don’t rear their ugly heads.
Source: Priobiotic Foods. WebMD. Retrieved online: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/probiotics-15/slideshow-probiotics
Hayley is a Certified Fitness Trainer and the co-owner of Building Bodeez Fitness Center, located at 154 Pandora Rd in Derry, PA, as well as a full-time Nurse Anesthetist with the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, currently based at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Fox Chapel, PA. Hayley offers a wealth of fitness and health knowledge, serving as the Group Fitness Coordinator and Wellness Programs Director at Building Bodeez.