Over the past 30 years, science has come to a better understanding of bacteria, the effects on the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, and immune systems. As a result, the use of probiotics has become more widely accepted and practiced than ever before. About 80% of your immune system lives in your gastrointestinal tract and probiotics can help. Approximately 500 different species of bacteria live inside you. The weight of these bacteria is about two to three pounds. Some of these bacteria are referred to as “good”, but others do not provide any benefit. The ideal balance between them is 85% good, 15% “other”.
This ratio between the “good” bacteria and the other bacteria becomes one of the critical factors determining your optimal health. Helpful bacteria (as found in probiotics) prevent the growth of less desirable ones by competing for both nutrition and attachment sites in the tissues of the colon. These organisms also aid digestion and nutrient absorption — another boost to overall health.
The term probiotics comes from the Greek “for life” (which gives you an inkling of what the word “antibiotics” really means). When probiotics are ingested, these living microorganisms replenish the microflora in your intestinal tract. This results in the promotion of a number of health-enhancing functions, including enhanced digestive function. Probiotics are found in unfermented and fermented milk, in yogurts, miso is another source, tempeh, soy drinks and some juices.
History does tell us about the ways different cultures promoted their intestinal health before modern times. In the past, people used probiotic rich fermented foods like yogurt and they also used sauerkraut — as food preservatives and as support for intestinal and overall health. Fermented foods are part of nearly every traditional culture. As far back as Roman times, people ate sauerkraut because of its taste and benefits to overall health. In ancient Indian society, it became commonplace (and still is) to enjoy a before-dinner yogurt drink called a lassi. At the end of the meal, they’d have a small serving of curd. These Indian traditions were based on the principle of using sour milk as a probiotic delivery system to the body.
Other examples are all around us. Bulgarians are known both for their longevity and their high consumption of fermented milk and kefir. In Asian cultures, pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots still exist today.
Poor diet and the stress- and pollution-filled environment provide significant challenges to healthy digestion, strong immunity and overall good health. Processed foods also tend to upset the balance of bacteria needed to support overall intestinal health. What’s more, many food products today are pasteurized or sterilized during the production process, and this destroys the helpful bacteria needed to promote intestinal health.
To ensure that you have the right balance of “good/bad” bacteria include fermented foods such as natural probiotic yoghurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto in your diet on a regular basis. Probiotic supplements are also a quick way to replenish beneficial gut bacteria. Look for a powdered probiotic with at least 8 billion organisms per gram . The most important strains of beneficial bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria so your probiotic should contain these. Keep your probiotic refrigerated to ensure survival of the bacteria.
The addition of FOS provides the food that the beneficial bacteria need to survive in the intestine. However, FOS can cause a lot of uncomfortable flatulence so if you are having digestive problems; choose a probiotic without FOS just to be on the safe side. Start with a small amount and build up the dose to therapeutic levels.
I hope your have found my article, Probiotics help as 80% of Immune System in your GI Tract, interesting and see the benefits of eating probiotic rich food and probiotic supplements.