Let me just say this up front, loud and clear: I can not overemphasize the importance of gut flora. We are not educated properly on this subject. We are not eating properly in order to maintain the absolutely crucial bacterial balance necessary for health. If your gut isn’t healthy then you aren’t healthy. You must fix this before you do anything else.

There exists a condition called disbacteriosis and sadly, most of us probably have it. Basically it is an imbalance of intestinal flora. Ideally our guts contain both the “good” and the “bad” bacteria, with the good winning out. But when our diets are poor and we introduce antibiotics we allow the bad bacteria to overtake the balance. To give you an idea, a healthy person should have between 3-5 pounds of beneficial flora.

Before we can work on our digestion and elimination health we have to understand what the problem really is and how huge of a role friendly bacteria play in our health.

Necessary Functions Provided by Friendly Flora

  • They keep our digestive system healthy. Bacteria coat our digestive tract and act as a physical barrier to protect our blood stream from anything dangerous entering. Without the proper balance of good bacteria
  • Chelate heavy metals, carcinogens, and other toxic substances and excrete them out of the body.
  • Convert food into nourishing substances for the lining of the gut, keeping it healthy. This is where “leaky gut syndrome” comes from – a lack of good bacteria causes the gut wall to deteriorate and become porous. This then allows harmful substances to leak through into the blood stream, causing vast destruction to your health.
  • Probiotic microbes are essential for feeding our bodies properly. They produce enzymes that break down food. They produce the substances that transport minerals and vitamins through the gut wall. They actually synthesize vitamin K2 and a plethora of B vitamins and amino acids.
  • They are the basis of our immune systems. Gut flora control pathogenic microbes. Modern medicines, antibiotics, and vaccinations wipe out beneficial bacteria, allowing these pathogenic microbes to occupy our digestive tracts. Once this happens it is very difficult to drive them out. Proper gut flora = healthy immune system.

Signs of disbacteriosis include asthma, allergies, skin eruptions, and chronic infections. You can also tell if your gut is healthy based on whether you are constipated (see diagnosing the health of your gut) or have issues with gas or bloating.

So the next question is how do we correct or maintain this balance? I’ll address it in the next article.

{photo credit}

What is your understanding of the importance of gut flora?

 

27 Responses to Digestion and Elimination: Understanding the Importance of Gut Flora

  1. Emily says:

    You mentioned gas… I was thinking about this after reading your first post on the whole “gut health” subject last week. I’ve read that gas is “normal” but wasn’t so sure seeing as that advice comes from the same people who advertise low-fat and vegetable oils as being healthy. So will a person with a completely healthy gut NEVER have gas? I do have it but it gets worse or better largely depending on what I eat.

    Sigh…if only there were more reliable information on these subjects out there!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Emily – I have also read that passing gas 14 times or so a day is normal. But then I found out that maybe it is not. Once I took out pasteurized dairy, grains, beans, and sugars I have gotten rid of any gas that I did have. When I eat these things, however, it does come back.

    [Reply]

  2. [...] Digestion and Elimination: Understanding the Importance of Gut Flora [...]

  3. April says:

    Eagerly awaiting the next installment! A lifetime of gut problems and I still can’t seem to get things right in there.

    [Reply]

  4. Beth says:

    I wish this series was happening last week instead of right now… I currently have strep throat (I believe), and am going to the doctor in a few hours, where I’m guessing I’ll be prescribed antibiotics. I haven’t had antibiotics since I was a kid (that I can recall), and after reading all this negative stuff lately on how harmful they are, I’m glad. But now I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. I’ve had this super painful throat for 4 days now, and there are the little white dots on my ball hangy thing in my throat. I tried gargling with cayenne/acv/water/honey last night, and it seemed to provide temporary relief, but this morning the white dots and pain are still here. I just don’t know what to do! Is it ok to take the antibiotics in this case?

    Oh, and to complicate things – I’m 27 weeks pregnant. !!!!! I’m so confused!!!!!

    [Reply]

  5. Kacie says:

    Well don’t keep us hanging for long!

    [Reply]

  6. Kaylin says:

    Read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell McBride. It’s possibly the best book I’ve read! It explains all about digestion and gut flora. My children and I are almost done with the GAPS diet to restore normal gut flora and it’s taken care of gas, bed wetting, constipation, eczema, my brain cloud… the list goes on. It’s a temporary diet (6 months to 2 years, depending on the severity of your condition) and then you can go back to eating foods that bothered you before with no problem.

    Emily, gas is NOT normal and healthy like “they” tell you! I don’t have gas any more now that I’m digesting my food properly! My son used to have terrible, clear-the-room gas and it’s gone now.

    [Reply]

    Emily Reply:

    Thanks. I suspected as much but have never really read up on the subject.

    [Reply]

  7. Lauri C says:

    I’m looking forward to your follow up on how to correct this. I know someone who has dysbiosis from long-term antibiotic usage. He ingests lots of probiotic foods and supplements every day, but it doesn’t seem to help. Of course, maybe it would be even worse if he didn’t take them.

    [Reply]

  8. Mommaofmany says:

    Beth, I have successfully treated strep throat with garlic. Plain old, simple, cheap, HEALTHY garlic.

    Take a clove and mince it as small as you have to to swallow it. The smaller you chop, the hotter it gets. Swallow it down however you can: by itself, with honey, yogurt, applesauce, with a cracker, etc. Swallow some milk (best if raw) if it is too hot for you. Repeat at least several times a day, up to every hour if your stomach can handle it. You should be better very soon.

    Garlic is God’s anti-biotic. I control my sons kidney disease using it. He’s not needed medicine for years now. :D

    For the pain, squeeze half a lemons juice into a cup of hot water. Stir in a spoonful of honey and enjoy. The honey and lemon heal and soothe the throat.

    [Reply]

  9. RadiantLux says:

    @Beth, What if you asked your doctor whether there are alternative therapies that don’t involve antibiotics? Google strep to find out more.

    I believe I had strep a few years ago. My youngest was about 9 mos old and we were still nursing. I was off work on xmas vacation. Because of the holiday, I never tried to get a doctor appt, so I never got a throat culture (if they even do those anymore). My throat hurt so bad I couldn’t swallow my own spit. It healed after 5 days. I wasn’t doing home remedies or aspirin – jut resting and drinking lukewarm-warm water and tea. I have many books on home remedies that I refer to when someone else is sick but I forget to read them when I’m sick.

    Go with your gut. Good luck!

    [Reply]

  10. Denise says:

    With Crohn’s Disease, there is a definite imbalance of bad bacteria, attacking the good. Changing your diet definitely makes a difference, as I have seen from personal experience.

    [Reply]

  11. Nanci says:

    We are almost 4 months into the GAPS -Gut and Psychology Syndrome… what a difference it makes. It is designed to heal the gut and gut issues amongst many other things.
    You think a LOT about gut issues on the intro!

    [Reply]

  12. Susanna says:

    My kids and I are a month into the GAPS diet, so I love this series because it reminds me why we’re doing what we’re doing!!! I have already seen positive results from the diet and am excited to see continued improvement. Thanks for all the work you put into this blog!!!

    [Reply]

  13. Beth says:

    Thanks for the advice ladies… I will start eating some raw garlic. My doctor told me to gargle with salt water or aspirin water, but it didn’t seem like he thought that would heal it, just provide pain relief. I’ve had this since last Sunday, so 5 or 6 days now. I’m getting tired of it. I seem to have seen the worst a few days ago, and improved a little since then, but it’s still definitely there!

    Thanks again (and sorry to take over your comment section on this post :)

    [Reply]

    Beth Reply:

    And I forgot to mention – he did give me a prescription for antibiotics, but he wanted me to wait to take it until we get the throat swab results… 72 hours in this town (and maybe more, being the long Easter weekend).

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Beth – Let us know how you are feeling and what works.

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    If you can get oil of oregano, try gargling that in some water – it’s super spicy though. Also gargling agrimony or sage tea (just don’t drink if pregnant). A lovely pregnant safe tea is ginger tea from fresh ginger, with a bit of cinnamon and honey if desired. My dad adds garlic to that – it works but is not as pleasant.

    [Reply]

  14. [...] Digestion and Elimination: Understanding the Importance of Gut Flora [...]

  15. Heather H. says:

    Beth, My husband is a carrier of strep, and catches it once a year. He gargles with plain hybdrogen peroxide until its nice and frothy, twice daily. He also completely eliminates all carbohydrates for a week, and it (strep) goes away fairly quickly.

    [Reply]

  16. [...] Digestion and Elimination: Understanding the Importance of Gut Flora [...]

  17. [...] Foods. Our gut health is crucial to our overall health. Add lacto-fermented vegetables to salads. For added insurance consider taking a good quality [...]

  18. [...] For a detailed explanation of what those friendly little guys lining your gut do for you, see: http://www.nourishingdays.com/2010/04/digestion-and-elimination-understanding-the-importance-of-gut-…  It would be well worth your while to use your search engine to find other articles about the [...]

  19. Kaylee says:

    Thanks for introducing a little ratoilnatiy into this debate.

    [Reply]

  20. becky says:

    this is amazing good news…..tummy problems are misery..thanks!

    [Reply]

  21. [...] Foods. Our gut health is crucial to our overall health. Add lacto-fermented vegetables to salads. For added insurance consider taking a good quality [...]

  22. […] For a detailed explanation of what those friendly little guys lining your gut do for you, see: http://www.nourishingdays.com/2010/04/digestion-and-elimination-understanding-the-importance-of-gut-…  It would be well worth your while to use your search engine to find other articles about the […]

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