Who Are We?
The cells in our bodies – the ones that we can call your own – number as many as ONE HUNDRED TRILLION. There are probably a like number of other cells; bacteria, viruses, fungi, and so on. While it might seem creepy that we are hosts to so many “bugs”, the little hitchhikers are usually helpful to us. A vast number of them make their home in our digestive system – all the way from the opening on our face to the exit at our – oh well, you get the picture. The tube that runs from the entrance to exit is well over 20 feet long. The things that live there with us are responsible for digesting food and extracting nutrients. When something happens to upset the balance of organisms we can become ill – anything from a mild bellyache to a life-threatening situation.
How did those “bugs” get in there?
Before birth, our digestive system was just about as clean as it would ever be. We picked up some good bacteria during the birth process. Thanks, Mom. No, you can’t see the organisms with the naked eye. They’re tiny. We also get a good dose when we begin eating – first with breast milk or formula and later with the foods we eat. The reason why the youngest babies get so little food variety is that they don’t yet have the bacteria in their gut to digest other foods. Those little helper organisms take time to establish in the gut and grow to a useful number.
For the most part, our bacterial visitors stay healthy. Once in a while, though, they can get disturbed. The balance between the good and bad bacteria can be interrupted and we can suffer. Little things can upset the balance. Think about the issues in the press about food poisoning – a bacteria that we eat. It gets “down there” with our balanced populations of bacteria and starts multiplying. The food poisoning “bugs” soon grow too large numbers. Our defense systems – and our good bacteria – fight to regain balance. Sometimes it happens relatively quickly – a bout of diarrhea can clean out a lot of the bad guys in a fairly short period of time. Nausea and vomiting can also physically remove the offending bacteria. In some serious situations, the body uses both openings in its effort to rid us of offending bugs.
Antibiotics are agents that can disrupt our bacteria balance. While they can be helpful, they don’t know the difference between the bad bacteria they are supposed to kill and the ones that are good to us. When the drug hits the gut it’s ready for action. It can destroy indiscriminately and we can lose large amounts of good bacteria – as well as the bad ones.
Our goal, then, should be to assure that the balance favors the good guys. We’ve discovered that bacteria that help make fermented food (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, etc.), can also enhance the population of good bacteria in our gut. Doctors and pharmacists have recommended yogurt to antibiotic users for decades – with good results. Today there’s a better option. The companies that supply the cultures to make yogurt have begun packaging the bacterial cultures into tablets and capsules.
Take a quality probiotic capsule every day. When under stress, or using an antibiotic, increase to 2 to 4 per day. Most commercial products are excellent. I usually suggest Florajen (Previously called Florajen 3). It delivers over 15 BILLION colony-forming units in each capsule – that will multiply in the GI tract. Take probiotics with clean water, on an empty stomach.
Give your body the help it needs to stay healthy. Take a quality probiotic, like Florajen. I take mine every day and we always make sure we carry a supply when we travel.