Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gut Health for Good Health

As you sit reading this post, 100 trillion little micro-organisms are abiding in your gut. Keep in mind that one-trillion dollar bills laid end to end would stretch from the earth to the sun and back again... times that by 100 and you can start to vaguely imagine just how many little creatures call your gut their home. These intestinal flora are responsible for a bevy of your bodily functions, including normal gastrointestinal function, metabolism regulation, infection protection, vitamin absorption, and so much more. About 70-75 percent of your immune system is housed in your intestinal tract, so you can see why a balanced gut is key to healthy living.

It's crucial to maintain an adequate level of healthy flora in your gut, not only since they are beneficial, but also because they need to be more prevalent than bad bacteria to keep your body balanced and free of illness. Additionally, beneficial bacteria help to strengthen the immune system by adapting to foreign bacteria and building up resistance and immunity against them.

In the Standard American Diet, there are plenty of ways that the average person kills their beneficial intestinal flora each and every day. The most obvious way being through anti-biotics which are occasionally necessary and lifesaving, but most of the time excessive and unnecessary as the body was made to heal itself. One might not consider that other medications such as ibuprofen, birth control pills, and more also diminish flora in your gut. White carbs and refined sugar are also major culprits.

There are several ways to help your body gain more beneficial bacteria. Cultured foods such as yogurt and kefir (without added sugar) made from dairy are a great way to add probiotics into your diet. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled vegetables are another prime source. Beverages that contain beneficial bacteria include water kefir and kombucha. Some people prefer to take probiotics in capsules but this is not as potent of a method.

Personally, I try to consume one serving of a probiotic food or drink per day, most commonly it is kombucha or dairy kefir or yogurt. Fermenting and culturing foods is a fairly simple process and usually just requires prepping a few ingredients and leaving them out for a few days. I've had success making yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, and kombucha. Some of these foods can be an acquired taste, but starting with the milder tasting ones like water kefir or adding fruit to dairy yogurt and kefir can be a good way to start.

Healthy guts are key to healthy bodies and there are plenty of tasty ways to help restore them. How about you? What are your favorite ways to get probiotics into your diet?

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