HEALTH & WELLNESS Middle Age Maladies recent-post2  >  What is Up With Gut Bacteria – Part 1

What is Up With Gut Bacteria – Part 1

What is Up With Gut Bacteria – Part 1
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BY KITT WALSH

Those annoying pop-up ads that show up on the side of my computer screen are distracting enough. Now photos of the grossest little mealy bugs regularly assault my peripheral vision, all extolling me to do something about my “gut bacteria”. (Charming phrase, that, by the way.) So I recently cried “uncle” and took time to at least read what dire misfortune awaited me should I not heed the warnings about what is bubbling in my intestines.

Here’s what I learned:

Bacteria along with their creepy cousins, viruses and fungi, inhabit not only our bellies, but also our genitals, urinary tract, mouth, nose, and coat our skin. For every cell in us, there are 10 of these microbes and researchers are sure, there is no doubt that they have a big impacts on disease.

Exactly what diseases are aided and abetted by the microbes is where the disagreements begin. Everything from cancer, fibromyalgia and allergies to colitis, diabetes, obesity and even autism have been linked, according to one study or another, to gut bacteria.

It’s really a question of what kind of bacteria is under discussion. Some strengthen our immune system, while others help cause the inflammation that is part of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and disorders of the joints, lung and skin. There may even be connections between depression, OCD and Alzheimer’s, since bacteria can make small “metabolites”—molecules that reach the brain.

Can you do anything to change the bacteria in our gut?

Yes, according to doctors, though there are a lot of schools of thought as to how you can make those changes. Switching from a high sugar and high fat diet to one with more fiber would help. Varying our diet and adding probiotics might be useful too. Recent studies made of athletes showed that exercise change the type of bacteria –from “good” to “bad”–carried in the body.

Lately doctors have been incorporating what are called “fecal transplants” (need I be more graphic?), where healthy bacteria are introduced into a person’s body who is fighting (and losing) against a bacterial infection. These transplants, as well as customized probiotics based on an analysis of an individual’s microbiome, are in the works and could become quite common in the future.

But in the meantime, how do you know if something is amiss in your own intestines?

Let’s start in the gut itself: If you are bloated, gassy, have frequent heartburn, suffer from constipation or diarrhea or have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Irritable Bowel Disease (including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis), it may be that you have unbalanced gut bacteria. It is also likely that your medical practitioner will give you an antacid that will only relieve your symptoms (and then only temporarily). Not all MD’s are knowledgeable about gut bacteria or believers in the effects of such microbes.

Gut bacteria can also affect your brain. If you are suffering from brain fog, autism, OCD, depression or anxiety, it might be the bacteria to blame.

Since gut bacteria helps produce and synthesize vitamins and minerals, when the bacteria is out of whack, you may find yourself suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, especially when it comes to Vitamin K, Vitamin B12 and B7, Magnesium and Vitamin D. This may affect the ability of your blood to clot, make your feel exhausted all the time and weaken your bones.

Antibiotics, the wonder drug of the last century, are killers of the good bacteria in your gut. Not only do we get them from prescriptions, but from some factory-farmed animals we eat. Studies show that good bacteria that gets killed by antibiotics doesn’t replace itself unless you help it along by reintroducing it in to your system via probiotics. There’s more discussion of that in Part 2 of this article.

Also, stress causes you to secrete cortisol, which stops our gut from working properly, so unless you can learn to relax, you may be imperiling our good bacteria.

If you suffer from Eczema, Acne, Rosacea or Psoriasis, it may indicate your gut is out of whack and if you share symptoms with Hashimoto’s sufferers (unexplained weight gain, muscle aches, pale dry skin, constipation, increased sensitivity to cold and sluggishness), these may be resolved by taking care of your gut, though you should always consult your doctor if you suspect thyroid problems.

Obviously more will be revealed about the importance of proper gut bacteria as more research is focusing on this area each day, but, in the meantime, if should you decide to practice a little self-care and make some changes to your diet and lifestyle that will affect your gut bacteria, please read Part 2 of this article: How to heal your gut.

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Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (http://www.behindblogs.com), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.