Five steps to healthy gut flora

by | Apr 16, 2014 | Functional Medicine, Nutrition & Diet | 0 comments

vegetables, fruits and nuts

Back in the old days (and that was only ten or at most twenty years ago) life was simple: germs were bad.

Now we know how beneficial gut bacteria can be – they help you digest your food, protect your body from toxic chemicals, boost your immune system, and regulate the hormones that control your appetite, metabolism, and mood.

Healthy colonies of intestinal flora play a role in weight loss, bloating, irritable bowel, ulcers, depression, fibromyalgia, allergies, and more.

Here are the five most important strategies you can use to ensure the health of the neighbors in your digestive tract.

Number One: Avoid unnecessary antibiotics.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water by skipping antibiotics altogether – used properly, antibiotics can save your life.  But in one third or more of cases, a prescription for antibiotics is given inappropriately – when it’s unlikely to do any good and can actually do harm.

Be a smart health care consumer – don’t insist on an antibiotic prescription if your doctor doesn’t think you need it.  And even if your doctor does suggest an antibiotic – ask questions.

Number Two: Avoid meat laced with antibiotics.

The sad truth is that most of the antibiotics used in this country are fed to cows, not used medically in humans.  Antibiotics make cows fatter but they mess up the balance of nature, including the balance in your intestines.

Meat is part of a healthy diet. But don’t mess it up – choose grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics.

Number Three: Eat a variety of fermented foods.

Cultures around the world have discovered the nutritional – and culinary – value of fermented foods that contain live cultures of healthful bacteria.

Some of my favorites include kimchi (Korean-style pickled vegetables), kombucha (fermented tea), yogurt with live cultures, or good old fashioned sauerkraut (though skip the ballpark frank that sometimes comes with it).

Lately, I’ve also been enjoying a morning health jolt of two tablespoons of unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar stirred into a glass of water.  It’s supposed to be good for blood pressure control too (but don’t stop taking needed blood pressure medicine based on rumor.)

Number Four: Probiotic supplements.

Taking probiotic supplements is a good way to make sure your intestinal tract is colonized by a healthy mix of bacteria.

Most probiotic supplements include bacterial species that thrive in fermented milk (i.e. lactobacillus varieties.)  But I favor a probiotic that is derived from species living in soil.

Number Five: Pre-biotic supplements.

Prebiotic supplements add another dimension to the care and feeding of your intestinal flora.  Prebiotic supplements contain the kinds of foods that friendly bacteria like to eat – long, complex chains of carbohydrates.

Five simple steps – a lifetime of good health.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


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