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Good Bacteria Part I

November 28, 2013

The winter season seems to bring out the germaphobe in many of us.  In some situations and for some small percentage of people (immunocompromised), the concern is legitimate. 
 
We are surrounded by cleaning products touting their efficacy in killing all  types of germs and we see antibacterial hand dispensers everywhere – leading us to believe that bacteria is bad and should be avoided entirely.  In our modern world, we have essentially and effectively pasteurized, irradiated and processed out any naturally occurring and beneficial bacteria. But that’s not all!  In the same process, we continue to feed harmful bacteria through a smorgasbord of highly processed and refined starches and sugars!
 
From the time a baby is born, we are encouraged to sanitize their immediate surroundings by wiping everything that will come in contact with them; not allowing what should be the natural exposure to bacteria – good or bad – to strengthen their immune system.  Raising our children with antibacterial soap and wipes in hand will probably do more damage to their gut health than you realize.
 
Truth be told, an abundant colony of good bacteria is crucial when we’re talking about our health and we need to shift our focus from avoidance to inclusion.
 
There are trillions of bacteria in your gut; making up 1-3% of your total body mass; and about 70-80% immune cells are located in the same place. 
 
With those numbers, you can see how important it is to begin thinking about how to keep the good bacteria happy and prevent it from becoming depleted.
 
 
So what makes the good bacteria in your gut go bad (dysbiosis)?

How do I know if I have an imbalance of good/bad bacteria?
  • Acne, rashes or other skin issues
  • Joint aches
  • Constipation, diarrhea, gas and indigestion
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sugar cravings and cravings for refined carbohydrate foods
 
 
What to do to improve and support good bacteria?
  • Eat naturally probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, homemade sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented foods (homemade is always best, as commercially prepared tend to be high in sugars and are pasteurized – killing the beneficial bacteria!)
  • Significantly reduce or eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrate foods from your diet – these foods will feed the unhealthy bacteria in your gut
  • Eat pre-biotic foods like fruits and vegetables – these foods will help your good bacteria grow
  • Use natural soap and water instead of antibacterial products – antibacterial products will kill bacteria – good or bad
  • Don’t overuse antibiotics – there are certainly cases when antibiotics need to be taken, but with more milder illnesses, where it can simply run its course, choose to skip antibiotics – if you do need to take an antibiotic, make certain you replenish the beneficial bacteria by doing the next step:
  • Supplement your diet with a quality probiotic (more on this subject in Part II!)
 
 
Stay tuned for Part II –
Probiotic Supplementation
 

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