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If you or someone you know has a “strong” constitution, there is a secret weapon that you may have inside you that protects you from getting sick. It’s an increase in the diversity of your microbiome made by your probiotics. Having a healthy probiotic population is directly correlated with improved immunity.
Your microbiome is made from literally thousands of different microbes. This community of friendly bugs protects us from unfriendly germs. They live on our skin, and they are abundantly found in our nose, throat, mouth, lungs, blood, and in our other organs, but mostly found in our intestinal tract. Seventy percent of your immune system’s receptor cells are in your colon and another 15 percent are in the lower part of the small intestine. That means 85 percent of your body’s immune system is at the mercy of the goings-on in your gut.
In a healthy colon, an almost countless number of friendly bacteria, or probiotics, help these immune system receptor cells do their defensive job. Probiotics inhabit the walls of the small intestine and the colon, fortifying them, forming a protective barrier that makes it harder for pathogenic bugs like E. coli and Salmonella to take root and multiply.
To date, scientists have identified about one hundred different kinds of probiotic bacteria. Of these, Lactobacillus acidophilus, commonly found in yogurt, is probably the best known. Most prevalent in the small intestine where it partners with the immune system, Lactobacillus acidophilus helps digest proteins, carbs, and milk sugar and produces the lactic acid compounds that make the digestive tract acidic enough to deter potentially dangerous bacteria. Another well-known bacterial family, the bifidobacterial, primarily populates the large intestine, where they ferment soluble fiber to feed the colon’s cells and keep pathogens at bay.
As long as these beneficial bacteria dominate, and hover around this 85 percent mark, the other 15 percent of harmful bacteria usually don’t present a problem. In a healthy gut, probiotic cells would number around 100 billion to 1,000 billion per milliliter of digestive tract. This number ensures that probiotics have a majority strong enough to do their best job protecting your health. But when the balance starts to tip, “bad” bacteria overgrow and can cause serious health risks. Today, many Americans have friendly flora counts as low as 5 per milliliter. Not 5 billion – just five. That’s not just a drop – that’s a probiotic meltdown.
As the probiotics dwindle in the colon, so does your health. When the good bacteria disappear, bad ones rush in to take their place on the walls of the colon. Once that happens, pathogens can gain a foothold in your gut and spread their toxins into the entire body. The colon (and the rest of the body) can be overrun by detrimental microorganisms like virulent Salmonella, E. coli, H. pylori, C. difficile, and the notorious antibiotic resistant MRSA staph infections that have been a menace in hospitals for years and that are now spreading into the community.
Our microbiome’s composition is critical to our health. The higher number of friendly bacteria and the more different species we have in our microbiome, the less likely we are to get any infections. The reason is largely due to probiotics that promote the production of our T cells, antibodies, and natural killer cells.
Probiotic supplementation is more important than ever. To keep us healthy and keep our microbiome population happy, our probiotics should contain at least five different strains plus a prebiotic strain. This will ensure diversity of our friendly bacteria. They should contain at least 10 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) per serving. And they should include the strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium bifidum. To enhance your immunity during these stressful times, I recommend Flora-Key, which has 5 essential probiotic strains including the above mentioned and a prebiotic which helps to transport the good bacteria into your gut. This powdered formula mixes easily in water or smoothies and is great mixed with a little almond cream as a sweetener for special desserts.
Some answers to common questions concerning probiotics: