Most people identify bacteria with disease and illness and while this can be true; most of them are incredibly beneficial for your health and essential to our survival. Not only have we evolved with bacteria, but it’s also part of what makes us. We have 300 times more bacterial DNA than human DNA, with having about a 1,000 species fulfilling different purposes. It is astonishing when you think about how we are trying to kill as much bacteria as possible in our modern lives. Anti-bacterial soaps, wipes, and gels are used on our hand’s multiple times a day and even more slathered on our little kids. I know it makes sense that you want to live in a sterile environment but accomplishing that would harm our body!
Bacteria are essential for controlling our immune system and brain function, maintaining your reproductive health and skin health, controlling allergies and metabolism, and helping us digest food and absorb nutrients. Additionally, gut bacteria can affect both appetite and how you use energy in food; hence can control whether we easily pack on pounds.
Our good bacteria should naturally control the harmful bacteria (the ones that make us sick, also known as pathogenic bacteria) in our body. Unfortunately, the balance can be disturbed, and the harmful bacteria can rapidly multiply and take over. This balance can start early in life for a baby that is born via C-section and is bottle-fed. The child is void of all natural and beneficial bacteria from the mother through natural birth and breastfeeding. Studies suggest that the balance of your bacteria can affect the neurological balance and therefore can contribute or intensify learning disabilities in school children.
Antibiotics are wonderful to fight serious infections and can save lives; however, using antibiotics too often can cause an imbalance for years to come.
I know that this might sound counter intuitive, but researchers are beginning to believe that modern hygiene methods have started to become a problem. I remember seeing a photo of myself at about two years old, sitting inside a sandbox and holding a sandwich in my hand. I was told that I occasionally enjoyed a handful of sand as well. You won’t see that much today as parents will make sure to bring out their antiseptic gel and wipes. Every toy is sterilized, and many toddlers are not allowed to pet the dog in the park.
How you can increase your healthy gut bacteria:
· Eat a diverse variety of “real” foods
· Eat lots of fiber (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains)
· Add prebiotic foods: artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oats, apples
· Eat fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kefir, kombucha
· Take a probiotic supplement
· Avoid artificial sugars
· Reduce your stress level
· Take antibiotics only when medically necessary
Modern soil and food have been altered, and glyphosate and other environmental toxins are added intensely that we are encouraging the bad guys and starving the good. Sometimes it’s good to go back to the old and enjoy life and foods that your grandparents ate.
Be thankful to your body and the little critters inside it!
Tanja Samalya, M