October 28, 2013
Your digestive tract is not only responsible for breaking down and absorbing the food you eat – it also acts as a barrier against foreign substances, including undesirable bacteria. Most people are surprised to learn that 70% of their immune system lies in their intestinal tract – but this shouldn’t be surprising at all. After all, your digestive tract is one of the main entry points for harmful substances and bacteria. That means there has to be safeguards for making sure these undesirable microorganisms can’t take up residence in your gut or be absorbed into your blood stream. That’s where the immune system comes in.
When you were born your gut was sterile and free of bacteria, but shortly after birth your intestinal tract rapidly became colonized with gut-friendly bacteria from your mom and from the surrounding environment. It’s these bacteria that defend against foreign invaders by priming your immune system and teaching it to recognize friendly from undesirable bacteria. Gut bacteria play a key role in supporting the immune system. Plus, these beneficial bacteria make it harder for undesirable bacteria and yeast to survive by establishing themselves and “hogging” resources that undesirable bacteria need to survive.
Based on this, it is easy to see why it’s important to maintain a healthy bacterial balance in your intestinal tract. When there’s an optimal balance of good bacteria, the immune system in your gut functions best and you have a better chance of keeping unwanted bacteria and yeast from gaining a foothold and causing problems. Plus, beneficial gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that have an anti-inflammatory effect. This anti-inflammatory effect keeps the immune response from over-reacting that can happen with some bowel disorders. In addition, a healthy population of gut bacteria aids digestion and nutrient absorption and is required for the synthesis of some vitamins, namelyvitamin B.
Unfortunately, a number of factors can upset the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. Drugs can destroy unfriendly bacteria as well as good bacteria. This creates disharmony in your gut and produces an environment where resistant bacteria can take up residence. Eating a poor diet and physical and psychological stress are other factors that can cause gut bacteria to become unbalanced. The population of bacteria in your gut is very much influenced by what you eat and drink.
How can you restore peace to your digestive tract or maintain the peace? After all, it’s pretty hard to completely control factors like stress that can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your gut. That’s where probiotic supplements come in. They seed your gut with good bacteria and help maintain a healthy digestive tract – and a healthy digestive tract is important for immune support and overall health. What could be more important than that?
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