How to Build Probiotics in Your Gut Naturally
“WASH YOUR HANDS!” our mother often yelled as she called us to dinner. The purpose is to make sure we don’t eat any bad bacteria with our food and get sick. Though many people are afraid of germs causing disease, there are many types of bacteria parasites and viruses that we want and need to help our colon function well.
The colon is the least appreciated organ of the body – until it doesn’t work! People with colon problems can be miserable. The symptoms of colon trouble can include a wide variety of issues:
- And even cancer
The colon is the large intestine. It is the waste dump for everything we eat. The small bowel absorbs all the nutrients from our food and whatever is left over goes to the colon where the waste ferments through multiple types of bacteria. While the small bowel is practically sterile, the colon has a huge store of bacteria – trillions of them! In fact, we have ten times more bacteria in our colon than we have cells in our whole body!
The types and amounts of bacteria we possess in our colon are essential to life. Even though they are residents of the colon, bacteria are very much a part of us, and in some ways make us what we are. They may determine our:
- Body weight
- Hormone status
- And, of course, bowel habits
When we were babies in the womb we were sterile. Our first exposure to bacteria came from the birth canal, which has colon bacteria from the mom, and supplied our intestines with bacteria needed to digest milk. People who are born by caesarian section don’t pick up the bacteria from their mother’s colon. Instead, their intestines start growing bacteria obtained from skin. These bacteria don’t help digest food and can even cause inflammation over one’s entire lifetime!
One researcher concluded:
“Concurrent with the trend of increasing [Caesarean Delivery], there has been an epidemic of both autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis and allergic diseases, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis.”
The Wrong Bacteria in Your Colon Can Make You Fat!
Additionally, those who are born by C-section are more susceptible to metabolic diseases and obesity. Multiple studies in rats and humans have shown that bacteria in the colon have a large effect on obesity. One study used mice that had intestinal bypass surgery. Those mice that had the surgery now developed different bacteria. When that bacteria were given to obese mice, they lost weight without the bypass surgery. Essentially, bacteria from a thin mouse caused an obese mouse to lose weight.
Humans also experience weight gain or loss associated with their gut flora. In one study, humans with higher levels of a certain bacteria, M. smithii, were much more likely to be overweight than those with low levels.
The Wrong Colon Bacteria Can Cause Arthritis
Studies on the types of bacteria in the colon suggest that arthritis can be caused or worsened by our bacteria. One study suggested that a single organism can make the difference between having arthritis – or not. The organisms that cause inflammation grow on simple sugars and starches. On the other hand, those bacteria that grow on fiber (prebiotics) create butyrate. Butyrate acts as an energy source for cells lining the colon and reduce an inflammatory response.
Prebiotics are the fiber found in fruit and vegetables. They have certain fibrous carbohydrates that we don’t digest but nourish the good bacteria to help them to grow.
God gave us quite the gift when it comes to prebiotic foods because there are many that have just the right “ingredients” to improve gut function without us having to do anything else but eat them! The most nutrient-dense prebiotic foods are:
- Root vegetables
Prebiotic foods are like fuel for good bacteria. They escape digestion in our small intestine but continue to the colon where the “good” bacteria digest them. These bacteria make butyrate, which prevents inflammation, such as arthritis.
Because of all the benefits of good bacteria in the colon, many have proposed fecal transplants to treat arthritis and obesity, instead of surgery and drugs.
What is a Fecal Transplant?
It is just as it sounds. Stool from one person is given to another person to change the bacteria in their colon. Doctors who do this procedure use a colonoscope to get the bacteria all the way through the colon. And put it where they want it.
The purpose of a fecal transplant is to populate the colon with good bacteria and give it more biodiversity. People with only a few types of colon bacteria have many more problems with their bowels and bodies. We not only need lots of bacteria, but a diverse population of bacteria growing together in harmony. Research shows that this procedure can remedy many different problems such as drug resistance, chronic diarrhea, arthritis, obesity, and diabetes.
The big question is, since we cannot see the bacteria without a microscope, and we don’t know how much or what type is in foods, how do we get the right type and number of bacteria?
Until the modern era, humans (and all animals for that matter) ate food laced with bacteria. Dung fertilized the soil, allowing colon bacteria on the growing food. People ate food that was fermented and contained live bacteria. These are foods such as sauerkraut, natto (fermented soybeans), miso (another type of fermented soybeans), yogurt, kefir, and cheeses of all kinds, as well as drinks such as wine and beer. Also, without refrigeration, food grew bacteria quickly so even non-fermented food had significant amounts of bacteria.
By contrast, today, we take great measures to prevent bacteria from getting into our food. For a longer shelf-life, food is:
- Sprayed with chemicals
Milk that has not been pasteurized lasts only a few days, even refrigerated. Whereas, pasteurized milk lasts for weeks. And ultra-pasteurized milk lasts for months without even being refrigerated! Many think they may be getting some bacteria in yogurt or cheese. But most dairy products are also pasteurized after they are made to prolong their shelf-life. Bottled kimchi and sauerkraut are heated so they contain little or no bacteria. While there are benefits to decreasing bacteria in food, such as less food poisoning, there is a downside, as well. We don’t get many probiotics anymore.
Since it’s hard to get lots of bacteria in food, and we don’t want to eat rotten or spoiled food and risk food poisoning, we can take probiotic pills. The pills contain certain very specific types of bacteria – some have only one type, while others have multiple different species of bacteria.
My problem with recommending probiotics is that everyone is different. One man had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and I told him to take a probiotic. He went to the health food store and took the most expensive probiotic out of the refrigerator with the highest bacteria count. It didn’t help. But his wife picked the cheapest one off the grocery store shelf and it worked well. It’s not the formula, it’s what you need that matters, and we don’t know until you try it. That’s a good reason to switch probiotics frequently to find what works best for you.
Your Own Bacteria
The bacteria in your colon are like a fingerprint. Your native gut flora has been present since soon after birth. They are uniquely you. They don’t like other bacteria coming in and growing so they usually kick them out. If you thought you could take a probiotic for a short time to get it to grow inside the colon, guess again! Probiotics do not become established members of your gut ecosystem. When you stop taking them, their numbers dwindle quickly. That specific probiotic strain level declines and eventually disappears. Within a couple of days to weeks, you’re back to your old self again.
This is why we need a constant supply of good bacteria, or probiotics, from our food. However, since we don’t get much from food, we often supplement with probiotic pills. For some people, taking probiotics can make a huge difference in colon and other body functions. Because of individual differences, those who start off with good bacteria have less need for probiotic supplementation.
Because of all the germaphobia in our society leading to the sterilization of foods, I think it’s a good idea for everyone to take a probiotic. It isn’t necessary to take them every day. Most of the time, once per week is enough to keep the good bacteria in the colon. A large dose of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and S. boulardii, among others once per week is a good policy. Look for one that has over 100 billion so you’re sure they make it alive to the colon.
How to Change Your Gut Bacteria
Feed the Good
You can influence how bacteria grow in your colon by what you feed them. If you feed bacteria with a diet of simple sugars, starches, and proteins, then you will grow bacteria that produce chemicals that cause inflammation. However, if you feed bacteria fiber, known as prebiotics, then bacteria will flourish that make chemicals to suppress inflammation. This is one of the ways diet affects your whole body.
A diet that feeds good bacteria includes:
- Fermented foods
Starve the Bad
We have many patients who regularly clean out their colon with enemas and “colonics.” Some have noticed that their bowels function better after a colonic. It seems that we need to clean out the colon periodically to keep it functioning well. This is true, but there is another way. We don’t have to fill the colon with water, coffee, or other liquid to clean it out. The body was created with a natural mechanism to clean house – by fasting.
Bacteria in the colon grow very fast. For example, one E. coli bacteria will divide into two every hour or so. If you take a single one and give it all the food it needs and take away the waste it produces, the colony will be bigger than the whole Earth in only 48 hours. Of course, there are so many factors that prevent this from happening in our colons. The point is that if you feed bacteria, they will grow.
Periodic fasting causes the relative types and amounts of bacteria to change. Those that live on fiber will tend to stay longer than those that live on simple sugars. This means that fasting preferentially selects the bacteriathat lower inflammation and keep our bowels functioning, while suppressing those that cause inflammation, depression, and cancer.
The other important way to starve bad bacteria is to avoid simple sugars (sweets), proteins, and fats. Eat a lot of fiber and avoid carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Take care of your bacteria, and they will take care of you.
For people with dysbiosis (the wrong kind of bacteria) I recommend a probiotic, as well as enzymes and prebiotics (to feed the good bacteria). The HEALTHY GUT SUPPORT from Garden of Original Greens has all of these and I have seen great results from it. Patients who have tried many other probiotics found this one to work better for their intestinal issues. Take one with each meal for about a month, then you may only need one per day. I have some people who continue to need the enzyme support, so they continue to take one with every meal.
Keeping good bacteria in your colon is easy with three simple steps:
- Probiotics 100 billion once per week – change brands after each bottle
- Eat a diet high in fiber and low in sugars, fats and proteins
- Fast periodically, one to three days per month with water only
As the “yuckiest” of all organs, the colon earns little respect. However, take continual care of this lowly organ to live a long, healthy, and happy life!