Gary Collins, MS, Guest Thyroid Nation
How Bacteria Rule Your Intestines And Your Life
Your gastrointestinal tract is considered one of the most complex microbial ecosystems in the world. The microbes in your gut not only affect your digestion, but your entire health. It is estimated nearly 100 trillion fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms compose your body’s micro-flora. You have 10 to 1 bacteria to cells in your body. Basically humans are living bacteria, and without them our species would cease to exist. To say this relationship between bacteria and the human host is essential, but yet greatly misunderstood by most is an understatement. Gut health is more important than we realize.
According Dr. Natasha Campell-McBride MD, gut micro-flora can be divided into three groups:
- Essential or beneficial flora – This is the most important group and the most numerous in a healthy individual. These bacteria are often referred to as our indigenous friendly bacteria.
- Opportunistic flora – This is a large group of various microbes. There are around 500 known various species of microbes that can be found in the human gut. In a person with a healthy gut their numbers are usually limited and tightly controlled by the beneficial flora. If anyone of these microbes becomes out of balance they can cause a host of health problems.
- Transitional flora – These are various microbes, which we daily swallow with food and liquids. When we are healthy and the gut is well protected by beneficial bacteria, this group of microbes will pass through our digestive system without causing harm. But if our gut flora is out of balance this group of microbes can cause disease. Basically, on a daily basis we are exposed to good, bad and transitional bacteria, and our overall gut health determines if these microbes will proliferate good or bad health. There is an ebb and flow constantly going on in your gut micro-flora. The general rule, is our gut when functioning properly, is 85% good bacteria, and 15% bad bacteria = good gut health. So why would we have an estimated 15% of what is considered to be harmful microbes in our gut you may ask?
The good and bad bacteria keep each other in check, so one will not override the other causing an imbalance. There is a complex language being spoken in your gut using various chemicals to attach to receptor sites on these microbes letting each side know when it is time to create or destroy one or the other to keep everything in working properly. If this check system was not in place you could literally be taken over by a group or groups of beneficial or harmful bacteria.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome And How It Impacts Your Health
Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) is a condition that happens when gaps develop between the cells (enterocytes) that line your intestinal wall. These tiny gaps allow substances such as undigested food, harmful proteins, bacteria, viruses, yeast and metabolic wastes, to enter into your bloodstream. These harmful substances should be confined to your digestive tract, in order to maintain proper digestion and health. Once the integrity of your intestinal lining is compromised (damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly), this causes a flow of harmful substances to leak into your bloodstream. You also then become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital for proper digestion. The end result is your body experiences harmful inflammation often referred to chronic inflammation. Your body then goes into attack mode trying to kill or eradicate these harmful substances. This is what is generally called the autoimmune response.
Leaky gut syndrome is often associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, or celiac disease. In addition to the above, people who suffer from leaky gut syndrome will often experience some, or many of the common ailments below:
- Food allergies
- Seasonal allergies
- Sore swollen joints
- Frequent stomach aches
- Diarrhea followed by constipation or visa versa
- Frequent heartburn
- Frequent colds
- Frequent sinus/upper respiratory infections
- Chronic Fatigue
- Frequent headaches/migraines
- Chronic or frequent yeast infections
There are many more health conditions related to LGS, but these are the most common ones I have experienced when working with clients. I know I’m not alone in this experience; many of the clients, and people who have followed my Primal Power Method way of living have found the same to be true.
Happy Gut, Happy Brain
Recently, there has been a great deal learned about how our brains are directly affected by the health of our gut, and the bacteria contained within. Our brains are connected to our guts via the vagus nerve. Matter of fact, it is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain. Today, research is discovering that your mental health is very much dependent on the microbes in your gut. In an article The Scientific American reported: “Scientists are increasingly convinced that the vast assemblage of microfauna in our intestines may have a major impact on our state of mind. The gut-brain axis seems to be bidirectional—the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain.” In addition, an article published the June 2013 issue of Biological Psychiatry, suggest that even severe and chronic mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), might be eliminated through the use of certain probiotics (healthy bacteria found in our guts). One of the factors that amaze most individuals, who implement my Primal Lifestyle philosophy, is how much better their cognitive function is (intellectual process by which one becomes aware of, perceives, or comprehends ideas).
Simply – healthy gut = healthy brain!
What to Avoid When Trying to Maintain a Healthy Gut
- Unnecessary or overuse of antibiotics.
- Long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs.
- Environmental exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Conventionally raised meat – 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed or administered to animals raised on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). For more information on this subject check out my book The Organic Caveman.
- Consuming processed foods.
- Consuming foods high in fructose, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
- Fruits and vegetables grown using chemical herbicides and pesticides.
- Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water.
- Regularly using antibacterial soaps.
How to Reseed and Maintain Your Gut Health
Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance. Beneficial bacteria help keep pathogenic microbes and fungi in check; preventing them from taking over. In addition to avoiding the above, I recommend the below four ways to help restore and maintain a healthy gut.
Get dirty for gut health
Get outside – The soil and outdoor environment is teaming with beneficial bacteria. Use less soap – That is right you heard me right, we chronically over clean ourselves. Your body is coated with all kinds of friendly microbes. These friendly microbes not only coat your skin offering a layer of protection, but make their way inside you. Part of your initial gut flora is seeded by absorbing via you skin beneficial microbes when you are born and pass through your mothers vaginal canal.
Consume fermented foods/drinks
- Kefir (organic)
Consume prebiotics for gut health
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that help good bacteria grow and flourish. To get your dose of prebiotics consume foods high in fiber primarily in the form of fruits, nuts, and vegetables.
Probiotic supplements for gut health
Probiotics provide the human gut with multiple supportive functions. Often referred to as “beneficial bacteria,” these microorganisms help to digest lactose, protein, regulate bowel motility, and keep the GI tract functioning optimally. I carry a dairy free Paleo friendly probiotic that I have used for years to improve mine and my clients gut health on my website, www.PrimalPowerMethod.com You can now see how important your gut bacteria are to your overall and continued gut health. Now it is time to dig into what I consider the core foundation of the Primal Power Method way of eating. Remember to be a true survivalist you have to get back to the basics of health and what our ancestors would have consumed.
About the Author
Gary Collins, MS has a very unique background and brings a much-needed perspective to today’s fields of health, nutrition, and being more self reliant. He holds an AS degree in Exercise Science, BS in Criminal Justice and a MS in Forensic Science. After an exciting career in military intelligence Collins worked for the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Special Agent. His career took him around the world and gave him a unique perspective on not only how the United States, but the world is affected by our food, drug and healthcare policies. An author and college professor, Mr. Collins advises specialist and is a consultant for high-level organized sports programs and gyms. He is currently an exercise and nutrition consultant for the San Diego City College Men’s Basketball team, one of the most successful Junior College sports programs in California. Some of his other clients include college football players for high profile programs, to include Purdue and Kansas State University. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This article originally appeared here.