Our bodies are made up of tiny, individual cells – about 60 trillion of them, to be specific. But that number is nothing compared to the number of “bugs” living in our bodies right now. The average person has 1,200 trillion tiny organisms living inside of them at all times. Creepy, right?
However, these bugs aren’t the kind causing you to scream when you see them in your shower. These are the bacteria “bugs” that inhabit your intestinal tract and live happily inside you and, in fact, are a critical part of your health and well-being.
Dr. Murray Smith of Eastside Chiropractic knows a thing or two about these good bugs. Even though his expertise is in musculoskeletal adjustments and physiology, his 25 plus years helping patients achieve optimal health has led to a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of the body and how to keep it working properly.
So, what are these good bugs doing in your body? “These bacteria living in your intestinal tract are essential to life,” Dr. Smith begins. “They not only keep your digestive tract working properly, but they stimulate your immune system leading to overall better health. Without these good bugs, you cannot properly digest food and therefore can’t properly absorb nutrients fully.”
When the gut flora (the good bacteria) isn’t balanced, it can lead to a whole host of syndromes and health conditions, some of which seem to have nothing to do with digestion. But when the bad bacteria outnumber the good, chaos ensues and the result is painful problems like inflammation and infection which can often lead to more serious health issues such as headaches, constipation, depression, candida, allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and more.
In fact, one of the most important functions of the digestive system is to support immune function as over 60% of the immune system is housed in the gut. Without the good bugs doing their job, you become more prone to illness and less able to fight once you become sick.
This winter, wage war on the “bad bugs” lurking on doorknobs, in office cubicles, and all over your children when they arrive home from school. Combat them by building up the good bugs in your digestive system through these simple tips.
1. Use probiotics.
Up until recently, probiotics were considered an “alternative health” therapy and were not widely known or accepted as part of a healthy living routine. Now probiotics can be found in all mainstream stores and more than that, are being touted as the cure all for the multitude of gastrointestinal ailments that seem to plague our modern culture. While you can find them in your yogurt and crackers now, be cautious. Not all probiotics are created equal. Find a quality probiotic supplement and change the type you take from time to time. Different brands have different strains of beneficial bacteria in them and it’s good to provide variety for your intestinal tract.
2. Limit antibiotics.
No one can argue that having antibiotics in our medical arsenal has saved countless lives since their discovery by Alexander Flemming (in the form of penicillin) in 1928. However, the overuse of antibiotics can directly impact the number of beneficial bacteria in your system. While antibiotics will kill the bad bacteria causing an infection, they will also kill all the good bacteria leading to a host of problems including the quite common antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). And, with most colds, flu bugs, and ear “infections” being viral in nature, not bacterial, antibiotics do little to help you feel better and in fact, can make you feel much worse.
When you do need them, mitigate the effects of antibiotics by taking a strong dose of probiotics (5 billion CFU or greater) concurrent with your prescription. And, more importantly, continue taking this dose for 30 days after you complete your course of treatment. While there are multiple strains on the market, a yeast (not bacteria) strain called Saccharomyces boulardii lyo is particularly effective during antibiotic use. This powerful probiotic can survive the assault from the antibiotics (while many other bacterial based probiotics cannot) and has been shown to be the best combatant against AAD.
3. Add raw, probiotic foods to your diet.
Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kim chi, lacto-fermented pickles are all fermented foods gaining popularity for their probiotic benefits, supporting healthy gut flora – the good bugs. In Thurston County we are surrounded by people whose profession is to create, and deliver, these traditional, healthful foods to us. Companies such as OlyKraut, Rainbow Cloud Kombucha, Tofu Hut and Oly Cultures provide raw, fermented foods (or teach you how to make your own) and area all based locally.
Be cautious of foods that claim probiotic benefits yet have been pasteurized at high heat. This process kills the bad and good bugs rendering the foods safe, but not full of the good bugs that can positively impact our digestive health.
Looking to combat the nasty bugs circling around? Fight back against the bad bugs by catching some good bugs this winter. Combine these bug building tips with plenty of sleep (7-9 hours minimum), lots of water, regular exercise, and a balanced diet and you are on your way to being a bug building superhero.
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