Microbes ‘R’ Us

On July 21st in the New York Times blog, The Wild Side, Olivia Judson wrote about the huge amount of bacteria present in our bodies (about 10 bacterial cells for every human cell) and the ways in which certain ones proliferate depending on the foods we eat.

The “gut bacteria,” as she calls them, are particularly important. Located in the digestive tract, they play a key role in the digestive process and immune function. They also make the small molecules needed for our enzymes to work properly and alter which genes get turned on and off in our intestinal walls. Having a wide variety is key to a healthy body.

What we eat has a huge effect on these gut bacteria. A diet rich in sugars and fats reduces their diversity, causing a shift towards bacteria that are most efficient at extracting energy. However, eating more plant foods can help you shift back. Ingesting foods rich in probiotic bacteria can also be beneficial. Try miso soup or foods like yogurt and kefir.

I often see that an overuse of antibiotics also really disrupts the gut because it wipes out these important bacteria. Often, natural treatments such as acupuncture and herbs can alleviate symptoms and boost immunity better than an antibiotic. If you absolutely have to take antibiotics, though, it’s a good idea to also take a multi-strain probiotic to help protect the balance.

To read more about how traditional Chinese medicine can help fight illness, visit Five Seasons Healing online.

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