Replenishing Your Gut Flora

gut healthAWhat are gut flora?

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?

  1. Antibiotics, birth control pills and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  2. High stress life
  3. Eating foods high in sugar, refined carbs and eating processed foods
  4. 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.

Antibiotics

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)
  • Acne
  • 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.

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Comments

  1. Liz Smith says

    Thank you so much for writing this post Barbara!

    I have come to understand that gut health is central to well being and knowing that my families gut health has recently been compromised significantly by antibiotics, I am so grateful to have some pointers in getting us back on track.

    • Barbara Dolan says

      Liz, I am happy that you now know how to get back on track. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if I can help in any way.

  2. Dena Clayton says

    Barbara, your information about gut flora is important, I’m so glad you are sharing this. I look forward to future installments re: cleanses for parasites and candida. I didn’t realize that anti-inflammatories and birth control caused an imbalance of gut flora. Even though these are not on my menu, I appreciate knowing about it.

    In 1991, I became exasperated with antibiotics when a round of them seemed to stop my digestion entirely. So, I firmly said “no, thank you” to doctors for the next dozen or so years till a severe-flu-into-pneumonia arrived and I felt it was advisable to acquiesce to antibiotics. While taking them, I followed guidance I’d heard for many years about taking acidophilus at the same time, which seemed to have the desired effect of keeping my digestive tract in balance. Can you say what your position is on this practice?

    Also, a year or so later, I began taking probiotics regularly. The third brand I took has been my mainstay the past several years. It is Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics original formula, complete probiotic system with live cultures. When I first awaken, it is at my night stand for ease of taking it right away with my beloved lemon water.

    Blissings,
    ~ Dena

    • Barbara Dolan says

      You have had quite the challenge Dena! There certainly is a time and a place for antibiotics and you knew when that was. I understand that it is best to wait until after you have finished taking the antibiotics to take the probiotics. It seems that if you take them at the same time, the antibiotics only wipe the good bacteria out anyway. You would have to take so many of the probiotics that it seems a bit of a waste. You are smart to have them conveniently placed by you bed side and with lemon water! I am a huge fan of lemon water. Your gut thanks you.
      Kind regards,
      Barbara

  3. Sharon says

    I have been on antibiotics pretty consistently over the last 7 years. My stomach is in really bad shape. The probiotic supplements really upset my stomach. I suspect it is because the bacteria may have been derived from milk products and I can no longer tolerate milk. Would you happen to know of any probiotics that are derived from a source other than milk?

    • Barbara Dolan says

      That must be frustrating for you, Sharon. For immediate use, my best recommendation is to eat some unpasteurized sauerkraut with your meals every day. Drinking kombucha (make sure that it is not pasteurized) is also an option as is eating miso (add it to soups just before serving). I will definitely do some research on this for you. I know that dairy free probiotic supplements are available. What country are you in?

      • Sharon says

        Canada…. We live in rural northern Alberta, so choice is limited. But at least supplements can be ordered 🙂

        • Barbara Dolan says

          Sharon, just wanted to let you know that I was speaking with my friend and colleague, Steph Jackson, who is very knowledgeable about improving your gut health, among other things. She highly recommends Custom Probiotics. There formulas are dairy free and have a high potency so they may be just what you need to get your gut health back on track. They do ship to Canada and the shipping cost is quite good and only takes about 3-4 business days.
          You may be interested in joining Steph’s class called A Cultured Christmas to get some great ideas on incorporating probiotic foods into your holiday meals to increase health & immunity and reduce inflammation over the holiday season.

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