Living inside our body’s gastrointestinal (GI) system, especially in the colon, is a balanced existence of trillions of good and bad bacteria. The healthful bacteria, in producing lactic acid, decrease bodily pH, enabling a slightly acidic environment in the urinary tract and the vagina. Unhealthful bacteria substantially increase in an unbalanced setting, creating urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections. Females have an important requirement for thriving digestive bacteria that have adapted to this acidic climate. Yeast and unhealthy bacteria do not flourish in this situation. In addition, an acidic pH in the colon, accompanied by proliferating beneficial bacteria, are protective effects against the development of colon cancer, the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among both women and men in North America.
Keeping good bacteria in the gut is a tenuous undertaking in our modern society. Most prominently, the medical establishment’s indiscriminate prescribing of antibiotics ends up killing both good and bad bacteria. Other drugs that cause gastrointestinal irritation, including constipation, are sleeping pills, known as benzodiazepines, and SSRIs of the antidepressant class. Also, consuming pasteurized foods or chlorinated water and washing with antibacterial soaps diminish the amounts of beneficial bacteria.
All of our gut bacteria need proper food to survive. Without this, bacteria will find nourishment by eating the sugars in the mucus layer surrounding the inside of the colon. This lining serves as a wall, protecting our inner tissues from invading bacteria and viruses. If this mucus layer degrades, severe bodily inflammation results from the incursion of unhealthy bacteria and their metabolic byproducts. This inflammation causes a “leaky gut syndrome”, leading to obesity, allergies, and chronic diseases, such as arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Consuming probiotic bacteria is the answer for increasing one’s digestive and urogenital well-being through the enhancement of mucosal immunity of the colon. As well as aiding in the prevention of the previously-mentioned conditions, probiotics lower blood cholesterol, reduce episodes of diarrhea and constipation, manage urinary and vaginal infections, and improve both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease of unknown cause that elicits fever, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss.
These last two gastrointestinal disorders are not managed well by conventional medicine. In particular, treatment for Crohn’s disease starts with standard aminosalicylate drugs and corticosteroids. Continuing treatment includes the latest in immunomodulators and biologic drugs. A study performed by both the Oxford College of Emory University in Georgia and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published in the April 2017 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It stated, in regards to Crohn’s disease, that despite these new drugs, there have been decreases in remissions and increases in hospitalizations.
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that serve as a side-effect free approach for managing gastrointestinal diseases. Unfortunately, a large amount of probiotic bacteria no longer survive at the time of ingestion due to the inherent problems in their manufacture, transportation, and shelf storage. The remaining probiotics need to enter the colon in a living state, so they can proliferate and improve GI health.
The stomach and small intestine possess inherent abilities to eliminate most bacteria. Hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach having a very acidic pH of 1.5 to 3.5 which destroys bacteria. In the small intestine, powerful digestive enzymes and a substantial increase in pH are both lethal to the bacteria which make it past the stomach. Because of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and sudden changes in pH acidity, it is very unlikely that a needed amount of probiotics are still active in the colon. In addition, the existent flourishing bacteria, which have already become adapted to the colonic surroundings, produce natural antibiotics that destroy newly-arriving probiotic bacteria as well as disease-producing microorganisms.
The solution for ensuring the viability of probiotics in the GI system is to consume a soluble fiber called prebiotics. This consists of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and whole-grain sourdough breads, and root-type vegetables, including onion, garlic, leaks, chicory, and Jerusalem artichoke. The vegetables should be eaten raw, as cooking decreases their fiber content.
Being largely undigested, prebiotics reach the colon relatively unscathed by the digestive actions of the upper GI tract. A person’s diet that includes prebiotic soluble fiber will nourish probiotic bacteria, so that they can live and flourish while preventing destruction to the mucus lining of the colon. In turn, probiotics activate the prebiotics into producing short-chain fatty acids that feed the cells of the colonic lining, thereby reducing inflammatory states and improving immune function.
Both prebiotic and probiotic supplementation usher in numerous health benefits, including enhanced digestion, improved absorption of minerals, better elimination of wastes, refined management of cholesterol, and decreased quantities of carcinogens in the colon. The resulting positive accumulation of healthy bacteria also reduces food-induced hypersensitivity reactions, improves management of autoimmune disorders, and adequately intensifies the immune system of our bodies. Prebiotics and probiotics are integral for strengthening one’s overall health, regardless of age.