Learn about the role of beneficial bacteria and how it supports your immune system
Most people have the idea that bacteria—any bacteria—are harmful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our environment is covered with bacteria. Your body and practically everything you come into contact with is covered with bacteria. In fact, between 400 and 500 different species of bacteria reside in your GI tract, and are estimated to account for as much as three pounds of your body weight.
Under ideal circumstances, while potentially dangerous and health-robbing strains of bacteria may be present, other beneficial strains of bacteria keep their numbers in check. It’s only when certain “bad” strains of bacteria get out of control that we begin to experience problems. These can be as simple as diarrhea, or as complex and serious as a systemic infection.
There’s no possible way to eliminate all the potentially pathogenic bacteria from our environment, nor would it be advisable. For humans to exist, a balance must be maintained, not only in our external environment, but in our internal environment as well.
The Colon Is the Seat of Many Chronic Problems
The bowel is a warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment that lacks oxygen and strong digestive fluids, making it an ideal place for bacteria to grow and flourish. When you take into account the way our society eats these days (little fiber and an excess of sugar, salt, and processed foods), it's easy to understand how pathogenic bacteria can gain a strong foothold in the colon. To make matters worse, we have drastically cut back on our consumption of vegetables and of beneficial essential fatty acids such as those found in certain fish (including salmon, mackerel, and herring) and flaxseed.
Imbalanced colons support the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which are constantly spewing toxins into the system. In turn, this causes your immune system to work overtime just to keep things under control.
How to Maintain Your Bacterial Balance
The best method of establishing and replenishing bacterial flora is the use of fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut and yogurt. Each of us ideally would include a small amount of naturally fermented food in our diet each day. But that isn't always convenient or possible, and that's when a probiotic supplement can provide additional support.
Stress, changes in the diet, contaminated food, chlorinated water, and numerous other factors can also alter the bacterial flora in the intestinal tract. So to play it safe, I recommend taking a probiotic supplement every day—even on the days you are able to eat fermented foods.