When the bacteria and yeasts in the gut, also sometimes referred to as microflora, micro biome or simply “flora”, are imbalanced, it can not only promote gassiness and bloating, it fails to provide the front line defence needed to prevent disease. A healthy microflora will mean a healthy person! 70-80% of our immune system is in our gastrointestinal tract and the microbes in there play a big part in many aspects of our health.
What affects Flora in a Bad Way?
- Antibiotic use
- NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Aspirin, Celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac and indomethacin)
- Birth control pills
- Chronic stress
- Sleep deprivation—even a single night of significant sleep deprivation can affect intestinal permeability and other aspects of digestion and gut function.
- Overeating – even overeating in a single meal can affect the micro biome
- Physical inactivity or excess physical activity
- Hypothyroidism, (T3 is required for intestinal motility, less T3 leads to constipation)
- Hyperthyroidism (Too much T3 leads to diarrhea and loose stools).
- HPA axis dysfunction -changes in cortisol secretion can lead to flora changes through a number of different mechanisms.
- Excess alcohol intake (increases intestinal permeability)
- Cigarette smoking
- Environmental toxins such as mold, biotoxins, and heavy metals.
Good Flora Provides
Protective, Structural and Metabolic Function.
- Pathogen displacement
- Nutrient competition
- Receptor competition
- Antimicrobial compounds
- Barrier fortification
- Induction of IgA
- Apical tightening of tight junctions
- Immune system development
- Aid in absorption of energy and minerals from food
- Production of some vitamins
- Help reduce inflammation.
Flourish Your Flora
Fermented foods provide naturally occurring probiotics to the human through diet and have a long history of safe use. It is important to feed the gut micro biome with the right microbes every day in order to maintain beneificial protection, structure and function.
Yogurt: Fermented milk product. Slightly tart, varying thickness and creaminess. Yogurt is abundant in calcium, zinc, B vitamins, and probiotics; it is a good source of protein; and it may be supplemented with vitamin D and additional probiotics associated with positive health outcomes. Traditional yogurt contains: Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii (bulgaricus), and Streptococcus thermophiles. For best nutrition, opt for yogurt with no added sugar or flavours and one that states “live and active cultures”.
Recent studies have shown that yogurt consumption is associated with a healthier diet and metabolic profile in adults. In children, frequent yogurt consumption is associated with a lower fasting insulin level, reduced insulin resistance and increased insulin sensitivity.
Kefir: Fermented milk. Taste is tangy and smooth. Much like a liquid yogurt with about three times the amount of probiotics per serving. Kefir typically contains the following beneficial bacteria: Lactococcus lactis (lactis, cremoris, diacetylactis), Leuconostoc mesenteroides (cremoris), Lactobacillus kefyr (thermophilic)and Saccaromyces unisporus.
Kefir is also a reasonable source of phosphorus and protein, vitamin B12, B1, and Vitamin K. It is an excellent source of biotin, a B Vitamin that aids the body’s assimilation of other B Vitamins, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, and B12. Kefir can be calming with its calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan.
Also good news for people lacking lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (sugar in milk products). Not only does fermentation reduce lactose content in kefir from 5% to 3.6%, the beta-galactosidase in kefir additionally breakdown lactose. For this reason, Kefir is good to help re-build tolerance to lactose, especially those with Candidiasis. Generally, it is suggested to start with two shooter cups of kefir in the morning (about 4oz) on an empty stomach. Every other day increase the amount by an additional shooter cup (2 oz) until you are able to drink a full 8oz (236ml).
Kombucha: Fermented black tea. Look for ones that are raw and do not have sugar listed on the list of ingredients. Gluten free, dairy free and vegan. Craze started 2,000 years ago in the Orient. It’s tart, fizzes and is somewhat acidic: a bit of an acquired taste. Kombucha received some bad rap based on the home preparations fermented in lead-glazed ceramic containers (what were they thinking!). Any fermentation process is best done in clean glass, in conditions away from the risk of possible contaminants. Follow clean fermentation practice if brewing at home. Kombucha tea can contain up to 1.5% alcohol, vinegar (acetic acid), probiotics, B vitamins, and caffeine. If left unrefrigerated, the alcohol will continue to build. If pasteurized, the probiotic content will be killed. Probiotics are grown from a “scoby” which is made of Acetobacter xylinoides, Acetobacter ketogenum a Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Zygosaccharomyes species, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Schizosaccharomyces pombe: Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Gluconacetobacter kombuchae, and Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis. In animal studies, kombucha has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels.
Note: Too much kombucha can be toxic to those with weakened immune systems. A moderate serving is about 4oz a day, more increase risk for metabolic acidosis.
Fermented Vegetables: Pickles, Beets, Kimchi, Sauerkraut…pretty much any vegetable can be fermented. Traditionally, the vegetable is soaked in brine (salt) that kills off harmful bacteria. In the fermentation stage, the naturally remaining Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them their unique, tangy flavor. Think of combining prebiotics in your fermented vegetable recipes for added goodness.
- Feed the flora! Just like fish in an aquarium, your need to feed your flora. You need prebiotics to feed the colonies of probotics (Lactic Acid producing Bacteria). Prebiotics are non-digestible plant-derived carbohydrates. Not only is it important to supplement with fermented foods that provide beneficial bacteria, it is important to also provide the food that stimulates probiotic growth and further fermentation in the colon. Diets complete with prebiotics and probiotics have shown to reduce reactive oxygen species and markers of inflammation. Prebiotics include fructans like inulin or fructo-oligosaccharides which in English means chicory root powder or as it is labeled, FOS (Fermenting Oxygen Species). Inulin is also naturally found in asparagus, bananas, burdock root, dandelion root, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and onions.
From the heart and research of Dr. Laura M. Brown ND.