We hear on a daily basis through media advertising, that probiotics are necessary to build a strong immune system, but what does this mean and how can we ensure that we don’t get caught up in media hype?
Most people are totally unaware that there are 100 trillion bacteria, weighing a total of 3 pounds (approx 1.5 kg) lining their intestinal tracts. This complex system of beneficial bacteria is a crucial part of the immune system. The primary function of the beneficial bacteria is to protect the body from invasion, but this can only happen successfully if we ensure that our diets are such that the beneficial bacteria are nurtured and encouraged with probiotics and not bombarded with unhealthy foods such as sugar, processed foods and toxic chemicals.
In a healthy individual, the good bacteria in the gut, represents about 80% of the total bacteria present, the other 20% being of the pathogenic variety. However when the ratio is 80 : 20 the good bacteria keep the pathogenic bacteria in check and the good bacteria are able to continue their job of producing a strong immune army. If we eat a diet of sugar and processed foods, what happens is that these foods “feed” the pathogenic bacteria and they become more prolific and can ultimately impair your immune system.
To maintain the good bacteria it is vital to adopt a diet that not only feed the good bacteria with probiotics but also avoids the foods that feeds the pathogenic bacteria. A two pronged attack. To provide the body with probiotic enhancing foods our diet should contain foods that have been fermented eg kefir, sauerkraut etc If you are not eating these foods then you should consider supplementing your diet with a good quality probiotic supplement. A good probiotic supplement will contain bacterial cultures such as lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidus. If the probiotic supplement is a good one these cultures will be highly concentrated forms of the particular bacteria. Unfortunately many of the gimmicky probiotic foods that promise to feed your gut with good bacteria, have been found to contain very little if any living bacteria, and many of them are sugar laden which rather defeats the object of the exercise.
Probiotics should ideally be taken with food as part of your daily routine. They are also an excellent companion if you are traveling abroad. Many people experience infectious traveler’s diarrhea while visiting foreign countries and a bottle of probiotics can help to clear up the infection in record time.
Probiotics tend to be viewed as something to take when on a course of antibiotics. This of course is vital, but they should really be given a little more credence for the wonderful job they do supporting the immune system, which after all is the most important contributor to our overall health