Surely this is a no-brainer? Your gastrointestinal tract harbors both good and bad bacteria. Perhaps a better description would be that if you allow any one type of gut bacteria to get out of balance you have a problem. It is technically called dysbiosis.
Perfect Health Diet tells us:
The human gut houses 100 trillion bacteria from a thousand different species ; they weigh several pounds and make up about half the dry weight of stool. To control these bacteria 70% to 80% of the body’s immune cells are normally found in and around the gut.
A healthy gut is protected by a mucosal layer that is designed to promote commensal (friendly) bacteria, while providing a barrier to pathogenic bacteria. Humans have evolved ways to “feed” commensal species of bacteria. For instance:
Human mucus is made of glycoproteins, or compounds made of protein and sugar. Certain probiotic bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, are able to digest human mucus.  Thus, the human intestine has evolved to produce “food” for beneficial gut bacteria, assuring that they are maintained even during long fasts.
Mother’s milk contains special sugars, called human milk oligosaccharides, which specifically feed Bifidobacterium bifidum and assure that this species successfully colonizes the baby’s intestine and wards off infection.
The absence of this protective barrier of mucus and friendly bacteria makes the intestine extremely vulnerable to infectious disease. Premature babies who are fed formula, not human breast milk, often contract a dangerous intestinal infection, necrotizing enterocolitis.
In addition to pathogenic bacteria, the gut is confronted by a heavy load of toxins. Bruce Ames and Lois Gold have estimated that the average person eats 5,000 to 10,000 different plant toxins, amassing to 1500 mg per day, plus 2000 mg of burnt toxins generated during cooking.
I doubt anyone would challenge me on the fact that we need to eat sensibly, a balanced diet, which in turn will protect the gut lining and keep the gut bacteria in a healthy state of balance.
Out of balance – dysbiosis of the gut can lead to
- Gut symptoms – irritable bowel syndrome (alternating constipation or diarrhea, wind gas, pain), stools like pellets, foul smelling offensive wind, indigestion, poor digestion, constipation;
- Tendency to low blood sugar with carbohydrate craving;
- Tendency to “candida” problems such as thrush, skin yeast infections. Kefir is useful because it creates a toxin that kills yeast cells directly.
- Tendency to develop allergies to foods;
- Leaky gut (positive PEG test).
There is some evidence also that gut dysbiosis can lead to / trigger inflammatory and autoimmune disease.
Dysbiosis can affect almost every aspect of your health. Not only will it interfere with digestion, it makes you feel tired. Dysbiosis may also alter your immune system and upset your hormonal balance, making it difficult for you to think clearly, and is known to cause anxiety, depression or mood swings.
To rebalance the gut and help it to heal and function correctly again, many people take over the counter probiotics, eat fresh yoghurt, or make kefir type drinks. All of these have their benefits, and so long as you remove anything which causes your gut to become inflamed and out of balance bacteria wise, you will be on your way to having good health again
I queried the use of supermarket probiotic drinks such as YAKULT because they contained lactose. I am lactose intolerant, so was concerned I would have problems digesting Yakult. Their website has commented on this issue:
Can a lactose intolerant person drink Yakult?
Yes. People with lactose intolerance are unable to properly digest a large quantity of lactose caused by lack of the enzyme lactase that breaks down (hydrolyzes) lactose in the intestine. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and milk products. During the production process of Yakult, the lactase of our good bacteria, L.casei strain Shirota changes the lactose into digestible sugars – galactose and glucose.
I have in the past bought a chemist line probiotic, which needs refrigerating to keep fresh. But some time ago I decided to begin making homemade yoghurt and looked around for a good starter/culture which would be beneficial for my gut. After much reading and online research I decided to trial
GI ProStart™ Yoghurt Culture Starter – I have no financial interest in this product.
I have some serious food sensitivities which I felt would be safe using this product.
GI ProStart™ contains a combination of microorganisms that have a complementary as well as symbiotic relationship in supporting the growth of an active and viable yogurt culture. S. themophilus is recognized as the strain that initiates the fermentation process; then L. bulgaricus and L. casei facilitate additional fermentation, leading to the final production of the yogurt.
SPECIFIC AND COMPLEMENTARY FUNCTIONS OF THE PROBITOIC STRAINS
The three carefully chosen probiotic strains making up this yogurt starter formula include:
LACTOBACILLUS BULGARICUS – This yogurt strain was technically renamed Lactobacillus delbruecki, subspecies bulgaricus. The L. bulgaricus strain is known to help decompose certain food components in fecal matter, assist in preventing purification, play a beneficial role in helping to maintain intestinal regularity, produce a natural antibiotic-like substance called “bulgaricans”, among many other documented benefits. In combination with the L. casei, it has been shown to exert some anti-microbial function against yeast, specifically Candida albicans.
STREPTOCCUS THERMOPHILUS – This yogurt strain possess remarkable ability to produce the enzyme lactase (B-galactosidase activity) to digest the milk sugar lactose, as well as supports immune function/modulation, inhibits pathogenic organism by producing lactic and acetic acids effective against pathogenic bacteria, as well as has the documented ability to synthesize folate and B-12.
LACTOBACILLUS CASEI – The L. casei strain is a well-recognized resident microorganism that is included in the yogurt culture because it produces complementary function and a broader spectrum of activity in the production of the yogurt culture. The L. casei strain is known to produce the L-form of lactic acid, which is known to be well tolerated by infants as well as adults.
L.CASEI – The use of the L. casei strain in combination with the two yogurt culture has been shown in a placebo controlled, in vitro study, to offer specific metabolic activates, as well as complementary attributes compared to regular yogurt and a placebo. (Djouzi, et al.)
When I make my own foods, I know what goes into them by way of colours, flavours, herbs, additives etc. I can be certain of what I am ingesting so that if a reaction occurs I can identify the culprit.
I have been making my own yoghurt using this starter for over six months now without any problems, and at no time do I add additional sugar to the product. It makes up well and I am happy both with the taste and the texture. I am hopeful that my gut is getting better and that dysbiosis is coming back to a good and healthy balance. You cannot guarantee this will happen when you are consuming processed, shop bought products.
I have no access to real fresh from the cow – milk, but am able to buy Ashgrove Green Non homogenised Milk, which I (and more importantly) my gut is happy with when I use it in my yoghurt making.
Funnily enough I tried fresh goats’ milk which did not agree with me, and I have not met anyone locally who has Kefir grains for me to try.
A Healthy Gut is what we all need to strive for – remember 70% to 80% of the body’s immune cells are normally found in and around the gut.
You may also find this article of interest regarding autoimmune disease and the GIT.