What’s All The Fuss About Probiotics?
Good and Bad Flora
There are no weeds in a rain forest. The ecosystem is so balanced that all is kept in check with the interplay between the various species of fauna, insects, and animals. This system, without outside intervention or interruption continues to thrive.
Not so in the industrialized mono-cultures of America. The Midwest boasts miles upon miles of uniform stalks of corn. However, this cannot exist without excessive outside help. To feed it, tons of petroleum based fertilizers are pumped into the tired soil. To kill the predators, herbicides and insecticides are regularly sprayed. To keep from killing the corn, the molecular structure of the grass is altered so that this hybrid of corn is resistant against Roundup.
Ideally, your gut should be more like the rain forest. It should be a large mixture of bacteria that works in balanced, synergistic relationships. It should be balanced enough to be self-sustaining and strong enough to ward of the parasitical “weeds”.
The good flora in your gut is the type that meets its needs in a way that is beneficial to you. It digests starches that you would not normally digest. Good flora produces byproducts that will actually nourish your body. It produces and pulls out vitamins in your large intestines that can then be cycled back into your body.
Anti-Biotics and Pro-Biotics
Often, the bad bacteria is countered much like the corn fields in Iowa without much view to sustainability. Antibiotics (Anti – against, biota- life) are a kind of scorched Earth way of killing all bacteria in the gut – both the good and the bad. While sometimes necessary, it is often an overused go-to tool. I once had a doctor that used to say, “Well, what you have is viral so an antibiotic won’t help. But take one anyway so you won’t get re-infected.” I would never obey that directive today.
Probiotics (Pro – for, biota – life) has caught attention of the mainline marketers. Its approach is to provide billions of reinforcement of the good bacteria in order to change the culture within the gut nudging towards a sustainable ecosystem. The idea being is that as we replenish the good guys, they can do the work to create a balance symbiotic environment that will do its job nutritionally and keeping the bad bacteria at bay. Like a rain forest.
This is why there is a growing interest in fermented foods. Fermented foods are basically foods where good bacteria were allowed to grow. Fermented food that is raw, unpasteurized, and unheated (such as Sauerkraut, yogurt or Kambucha) allows for these bacteria to be eaten or drank into your system.
Sauerkraut, for example, is made by massaging salt into chopped cabbage. As the water is released as brine and the product is jarred (making sure the brine covers the cabage) an environment exists where the good bacteria can thrive and the bad bacteria cannot.
Probiotics and fermentation is not a silver bullet – it won’t undo chronic health problems or make up for other areas where we are not feeding our bodies what it is truly asking for. Nevertheless, it is a foundational part of digestion that supports the body’s overall system of health.
© 2014 David B. Sable