Growing up we were taught that bacteria is bad and should be eliminated at all costs: hand-sanitizers, fully washing our fruits and vegetables, and taking courses of antibiotics. What if you knew that these little bacterial organisms were not actually enemies, but some of our greatest allies?
Humans have over 1,000 different types of friendly bacteria that lives not only on our skin, but also in our gastrointestinal tract. These friends are responsible for a number of body functions including: production of vitamins like B12, folate, niacin, and vitamin K, maintenance of the stomach wall and protection against bad bacteria, regulation of the immune system and inflammation, production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate that fuels the brain and intestine, weight loss and appetite regulation, and production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
In some studies, a change in the microbiome of the gut has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity.
Signs that your gastrointestinal flora is out of whack: infections such as Lyme disease, mold, or autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, poor diet of simple sugars, processed, and low-fiber foods, and overuse of antibiotics, NSAIDS, and acid-reducing meds.
There are a number of foods that can help the microflora grow and develop into its fullest self: prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and healthy fats.
Artificial sugar, alcohol, and processed foods have been linked to inhibit these little friends by increasing insulin resistance and creating cravings of poorly made food.