Gut flora are microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of animals. In the case of humans, we have about 100 trillion microorganisms in our intestines. Wow. I can hardly even imagine how many that really is. Can you?
Why are gut flora important?
The gut flora in humans are there to help with the following important functions;
- to regulate our bowel movements
- to regulate our metabolism
- to protect us from infection
- to support the immune system
- to help keep our hormones balanced
- to make B Vitamins and Vitamin K
- to break down carbohydrates to give us energy and nutrients
- to protect us from inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, type I diabetes and depression (who knew?!)
There are more functions that gut flora are involved in but this gives you an idea as to how important the flora are to our bodies.
What can lead to unhealthy gut flora?
- Antibiotics, birth control pills and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- High stress life
- Eating foods high in sugar, refined carbs and eating processed foods
- Not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables
It is important to know that mothers with unhealthy gut flora may pass this on to their babies at birth. It is also important to know that breastfeeding babies is an easy way to protect them from the unhealthy gut flora. Babies who have not been breastfed are more likely to have unhealthy gut flora. Studies have shown that the development of autism can be linked to babies having unhealthy gut flora. There is an interesting article about how your baby’s gut health impacts their future health, that you may want to read.
Studies show that antibiotics change the gut flora and literally kill off millions of the good bacteria. If you take antibiotics, it is important to take the time to replenish your gut flora as our body is unable to restore all of it on its own.
How does one replenish gut flora?
Here are some suggestions that will help.
- Chlorophyll promotes healthy gut flora and stops anaerobic yeasts and fungi in the digestive tract. So, eat a clean diet; full of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds that are organically grown; especially dark greens like kale and chard. Consider a supplement of wheat grass or spirulina or wild blue green algae.
- Equally important is to avoid processed foods.
- Eat fermented foods that are unpasteurized such as raw sauerkraut, miso, raw kimchi, etc. Fermented foods restore the gut flora by promoting the growth or Lactobacillus and Acidophilus. I eat a few tablespoons of raw sauerkraut at least once/day, sometimes twice.
- Take a probiotic once per day. Look for supplements that contain Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria in the billions. I take one that has 8 billion.
- Do a parasite cleanse and a candida cleanse (I plan to expand on this in an upcoming post).
- Find ways to reduce the stress in your life.
How do I know if I need to replenish my gut flora?
If you have any of the following, consider taking extra good care of your gut flora:
- Use of antibiotics
- GI upset…diarrhea, constipation, cramps
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Yeast infections
- Joint aches, headaches, migraines
- Frequent infections and illness
- Low energy, irritability,depression
- Increased PMS symptoms, increased menopausal symptoms
- Bloating or offensive gas
- Bad breath (not just from the garlic at lunch :))
- Highly sensitive to sugar and yeast (bread)
- Anorexia and/or bulimia
- Too much mucus, constant stuffy nose especially after eating
I highly recommend that you practice the above suggestions regularly, even if you have none of the symptoms mentioned. In my experience, it is worth it to be proactive with your health. A simple thing as adding some sauerkraut or miso to your daily diet and increasing your green vegetable intact will pay back big dividends. Clearly, having healthy gut flora is important to your overall health and well-being and taking care of this health is only beneficial to you.