Written by Dr. Diane E. Clayton
Believe it or not the average human contains 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. In fact our microbiome or our microbial “ecosystem” together with our DNA is what makes each of us unique. The only time we are microbe-free is during the 9 months we spend in the womb. During birth, after birth and during the first few years of life our resident microbes (comprising not just bacteria, but also viruses, fungi and protozoa) establish themselves in and on our body as a balanced and stable community helping us grow and develop into healthy adults. Exactly how our resident microbes become established is determined both by our genetics and the environment we live in. So, when all goes well, we live in harmony with a stable community of microbes which confer upon us numerous health benefits.
In particular the microbes that live within our gut help shape our immune system and play a vital role within our protective gut barrier which defends us from harmful environmental influences. Anything that disturbs the balance and stability of our gut microbes can contribute to the weakening of our defenses and allow disease-causing microbes to populate our gut barrier and even cross over into our blood. One all too frequent example of such instability is that which may result from the use of antibiotics which destroy both our good and bad gut bacteria. Our enemies, the bad bacteria and also fungi are quick to take advantage of the altered available space in the niche of our gut and the usual balance is lost. It is therefore absolutely vital that we reestablish harmony of our resident microbes.
Maintaining and restoring balance and harmony of our resident microbes as we go through life depends to a large extent upon the quality of the food we eat. So, when we eat high quality whole food nutrients, we establish a diverse and stable resident community of gut microbes that work with us to maintain a healthy metabolism. In contrast, eating a high sugar, high processed food diet encourages a different kind of residents in your gut, the kind which makes your metabolism sluggish. These microbes are also really good at extracting calories from your food, so they tend to help you gain weight-usually not what you want!
To get extra help with maintaining and restoring a harmonious balance of friendly gut microbes we may choose to eat fermented foods such as yoghurt which contain natural probiotics such as strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Or, we may conveniently get that help by taking a probiotic supplement such as NeoLife Acidophilus Plus. This product contains five strains of beneficial bacteria which are delivered directly to where they are needed in the gut. These strains have been specifically selected to help maintain a healthy protective gut barrier whatever your stage of life.
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- Intestinal microbiota in health and disease: Role of bifidobacteria in gut homeostasis. Tojo,R. et al. World Journal of Gastroenterol. 20 (41): 15163-15176 (2014). doi 10.3748/wjg.v20.i41.15163
- Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. David, L. et al; Nature 505, 559-563 (2014) doi: 10.1038/nature12820