The Friends in Our Gut

Did you know that we share our bodies with billions of living creatures? It has been calculated, that there are more bacterial cells in our digestive tract than cells in our body! There are more of them inside each of us than us.  Bacteria live on our skin and the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat and digestive tracts. Lets have a closer look at those guests in our guts.

Who are they?

Every part of the digestive tract contains a different assortment of bacteria. In the esophagus (our throat) we find species that are swallowed with food and saliva. The acid in the stomach creates a barrier for most bacteria. Only very few can survive the acid bath. The most known exception  is a bacteria called “Helicobacter pylori”. It can thrive in the stomach, especially if one takes anti acid agents like e.g. pepto bismol. Helicobacter pylori can  cause peptic and duodenal ulcers, commonly known as stomach ulcer.

Lactobacilli and Enterococci are at home in the small intestines. The highest concentration of bacteria is in the large intestines. They come from the families of Bacteroides, Lactobacilus, Bifidobacterium, Clostridium and Escherichia. We can also find fungi Saccharomyces, Aspergillus and Candida and protozoa living in our guts.

Why do our bodies tolerate this invasion of foreign organisms? In short, we need them to stay healthy. By creating enzymes they help us to break down food. They keep an overflow of  “bad” bacteria in check.  Vitamin K, B12 and biotin are produced and/or absorbed  by our gut bacteria. They stimulate the immune system and prevent the spread of allergies.

The good bacteria will prevent inflammation of the bowel. Bacteria and fungi create a delicate eco system within our digestive tract. An imbalance in our gut flora is called dysbiosis. It can create a number of unpleasant symptoms e.g. bloating, flatulence, indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (alternating constipation and diarrhea). Long standing dysbiosis can cause vitamin deficiencies, allergies and infections.

What causes dysbiosis?

Short term or prolonged use of antibiotics is the main cause of changes in the intestinal flora. Antibiotics kill bacteria. They do not distinguish between the “good” and the “bad”. This can cause an over accumulation of yeast and other species e.g. fungi in the digestive tract. Almost every woman has experienced yeast infection after a course of antibiotics.

Another important factor in creating dysbiosis is an imbalanced diet. Food that consists of high simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, potatoes) creates excellent conditions for yeast growth. An overload of yeast within the body reduces the number of “good” bacteria. Consumption of alcohol and soda can ruin the delicate balance in our intestinal ecosystem.

How to correct dysbiosis? 
The easiest way to get your gut back in shape is a proper diet. In short avoid sugars, refined (white flour, pasta) and processed food (frozen meals, canned foods), saturated fats, soda and alcohol. A diet high in protein and fat will encourage the “good” bacteria to thrive and subsequently kick out the bad guys.

Supplements can be very helpful in supporting the process of recreating a healthy gut flora. Especially supplements that contain strains of Lactobacili, Bifidobacteria or Saccharomyces, in other words a bunch of desirable bacteria. They vary in quality and concentration of bacteria. Please consult your chosen health care professional which kind of supplement would serve your needs best. Please do not rely on information given by a sales person in food stores.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been proven to be extremely helpful in restoring gut function. A combination of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can increase blood flow in the gut and restore strength and vitality in the digestive tract.

We are here to help. Please call for nutritional counseling, herbal prescriptions and acupuncture.
As always in good health,
your Avicenna Acupuncture Team

Petra and Igor 

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