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We have more bacterial cells in our gut than we do in the rest of our body — about two to four pounds of it! Bacteria out number our body cells by 10 to 1. They are absolutely essential to life! The beneficial type of bacteria are known as probiotics.

Probiotic literally means “for life”, in contrast to antibiotic, which means “against life.” The most common and most widely studied probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Lactobacillus bacteria are most associated with the small intestine, and the Bifidobacteria are mostly found in the large intestine, or colon.

Beneficial bacteria have many functions in the body, which include:

– aiding in the production and absorption of vitamins and minerals

– protecting the intestinal lining and “crowding out” bad bacteria

– bulking up stool and increasing peristalsis for happy bowelsJ

– supporting the immune system so that it responds appropriately to invaders such as harmful organisms, toxins, and even food

It’s sometimes hard to make the connection, but imbalances in the digestive system can affect every other system in the body….seriously. Arthritis, acne, psoriasis, eczema, low energy, depression, obesity, candidiasis…these are all symptoms of possible bacterial imbalance.

Factors such as age, use of antibiotics, poor diet, food intolerances, allergies, and stress can cause pathogenic bacteria levels to increase. Keep in mind that even natural products like oil of oregano, grapefruit seed extract, and cleansing kits quite often destroy some of your beneficial bacteria, so be sure to replenish on a regular basis.

Fuel your body properly by focusing on natural foods that are packed with nutrients. Vegetables and fruits should top the list ; these create an ideal environment in the gut for probiotics to thrive. Focus on food sources of probiotics such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi, raw sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and beet kvass. Opt for probiotic supplements when a more therapeutic dose is needed.

Some of our favourites include Bio-K, Progressive HCP 70, Nutrition Now PB8, Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, and MegaFood MegaFlora Plus.

By: Krista Boulding, RHN & Sandy Davies, RHN

January 20, 2014