Most people are deficient when it comes to healthy gut flora. Normally, your gut is home to over 100 billion bacteria, but antibiotics, pesticides, stress, and genetically-modified foods are just some of the things that can weaken that diversity.  The microbiome (your gut's bacteria) needs to stay healthy or problems could occur. Things like irritable bowel syndrome, gluten allergies, and even obesity are just some of the complications. Some even think the recent rise in autism, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis could even be connected to an unhealthy gut!  Here are just 3 reasons why healthy gut flora are so important.
1. Discourages Crohn's Disease
Maybe you're wondering just how important of a role bacteria plays in health. The answer could surprise you. Crohn's disease is often difficult to diagnose from stool samples, but the key to the disease could be found inside the gut. Researchers looked at tissue samples from the intestinal walls of "447 newly affected and 221 non-affected people" and found an overabundance of certain bacteria types was linked to inflammation levels.  That's just more reason to encourage healthy gut flora!
2. Promotes Digestion and Digestive Health
It may come as no surprise that bacteria levels inside your gut can help with regular digestion. Recent evidence suggests a healthy and diverse microbiome could even help with intestinal integrity.  Basically, that's how the body separates the good from the bad. A healthy gut only allows what's useful to pass through to the body; now, that's a gut with integrity. Sorry—I just couldn't let that pun go.
3. Supports Mental Health
When you eat a big meal, you stop when you're full, right? Well, a healthy gut could even help your brain know when you've had enough by releasing specific satiety hormones.  It could also play a role in depression and anxiety.  Recent evidence even suggests a link between gut health and autism, with researching showing that probiotic treatments could help autistic children by improving bacteria levels.  Scientists are finding more and more about this gut-brain connection all the time!
One Final Thought
So how can you support healthy flora? Well, you could roll around on the bathroom floor to get your dose of bacteria (or any other floor, for that matter.)  But then, that seems a little extreme, and you'd be getting all the bacteria–the good and the bad. Recent evidence suggests a good diet and exercise could influence the microbiome, so why not start a new fitness habit?  Of course, you could always just turn to probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables and yogurt. But definitely remember, don't eat food that'll harm the gut, and consider taking a probiotic supplement.
What would you do to encourage healthy gut flora? Tell us in the comments!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM