Probiotics are supposed to be a natural part of our gut flora, which is the complex community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts. They work symbiotically with our body cells to help digest and break down nutrients to make them available to our bodies, and also manufacture enzymes, vitamins like the B family and K, short chain fatty acids and other important substances to help our bodies to function optimally. They also defend against pathogens by colonising our gut and by secreting compounds that kill or inhibit unwelcome organisms. 70-80% of our immune system is located in the gut wall and a well functioning digestion is essential for good health and resistance to diseases. As the gut flora gets established, they help to develop and strengthen the lining of the intestines, and this provides a tight barrier to disease causing bacteria, toxins and allergens passing into the blood stream.
A good balance is 90% of ‘good’ bacteria to 10% of ‘bad’ bacteria. When this balance is disturbed or even reversed, a host of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions can result because the intestinal lining becomes weak and permeable and develops cracks and holes that cause partly digested foods, pathogenic bacteria or toxins to leak through. This condition is commonly referred to as a “leaky gut” and results in inflammation as the body’s defences move quickly to attack the unauthorised invaders. The result may be gas, bloating, pain, headaches, allergic reactions and a host of other symptoms.
The good news is that this imbalance can be reversed and a leaky gut can be healed. When wrong food and lifestyle habits are corrected and natural probiotic foods are included in the daily diet, the beneficial microbes can begin to set up colonies in the intestines, correcting the balance and reversing some of the damage done in the past by strengthening the intestinal lining and closing the gaps that cause the leaks. In order to encourage these microbes to take up residence and colonise your gut, they need to be supplied with appropriate food, so one needs also to eat sufficient fruits, vegetables and other foods rich in indigestible fibre that ends up in the colon or large intestine, where these microbes can live and flourish, instead of simply being passed out of the body.
Including a variety of probiotic foods and drinks in your diet can help heal a damaged gut, strengthen the immune system, provide resistance to coughs colds and allergies, protect bones and joints, improve mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, give you a natural energy boost, as your cells get the nutrition they need, protect against cancer and even help to reverse many diseases.