You probably already know that a healthy intestinal tract is essential for feeling your best. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, and cramps can all result from an unhappy gut. As unpleasant as those conditions can be, though, did you know that the importance of a balanced bowel goes far beyond just digestion?
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine (you may have heard of his “Hippocratic Oath”), famously believed that “all diseases begin in the gut.” While that may be an exaggeration, contemporary research is continually uncovering new evidence that an unbalanced gut can be implicated in a dizzying array of human illnesses, including skin problems, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, depression, cognitive decline, and more.
Our gastrointestinal tracts are home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 400 unique species. In fact, more bacteria live in your gut than there are cells in the rest of your body, by far. Before you panic and call an exterminator or swallow an entire bottle of hand sanitizer, though, it’s important to realize that these microscopic creatures, also known as gut flora, play an absolutely crucial role in promoting health and well-being. These beneficial bacteria not only help us to digest our food, and to get the most nutrients possible from what we eat, they also fight off harmful, illness-causing bacteria.
Unfortunately, due to the overuse of antibiotics, both in prescribed form and in the raising of livestock for meat and dairy, the over-reliance on antibacterial cleaners and soaps, and the increase in processed foods in our diets, the viability and diversity of many people’s internal ecosystems has become compromised, throwing their digestive systems, and overall health, out of whack.
While it’s undeniable that antibiotics have played an important role in promoting human health, they have also been needlessly prescribed in the past. Doctors have become more cautious in recent years, taking care to only prescribe them when necessary, but many industrial farms continue the dangerous practice of giving healthy livestock antibiotics to prevent infections and promote growth. In fact, as much as 80% of all of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to livestock.
As little as a single course of antibiotics can be enough to devastate your gut flora, and compromised intestinal bacteria will not rebalance on their own. Fortunately, though, it is possible to heal and promote biodiversity within your intestinal tract by reintroducing beneficial bacteria. Everything you consume eventually finds its way into your gut, so you have the power to restore your intestinal flora by eating foods containing live and active cultures and/or taking probiotic supplements.
If you’re feeling run down, depressed, scattered, achy, or you’re experiencing digestive disturbances, rebalancing your gut flora could be the key to feeling better. On the following pages are some easy, and delicious, ways you can restore your intestinal health: