The human body is composed of trillions of cells that make up tissues and organs. In addition, we are host to a myriad of microscopic organisms. Bacterial cells that live in and on us outnumber our own cells by an inconceivable factor of ten.
Fortunately, not all bacteria are bad. As a matter of fact, some are extremely important for keeping us healthy. These friendly bacteria are known as probiotics.
There are more than 400 identified bacterial species in the human intestines, some of which are potentially dangerous, others of which are beneficial. Beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, bulgaricus and bifidus, help protect us by displacing and diluting pathogenic bacteria that can make us sick. E. coli and salmonella, for example, are two common types that account for many cases of food poisoning.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a Russian biologist proposed the idea that aging and premature death could be prevented by eating yogurt, which is basically sour milk fermented with bacteria. Since then, numerous scientific studies have shown that probiotic bacteria offer protective and therapeutic effects on human health. These effects include reduced infections and associated diarrhea, enhanced absorption of nutrients, reduced toxins and cancer risk, increased immunity, lower cholesterol levels, and less constipation.
Our modern lifestyle is responsible for many factors that can upset body ecology. For optimum digestion and immunity, it’s important to keep our microflora balanced. This is accomplished by minimizing the use of antibiotics (which destroy both good and bad bacteria), getting plenty of fiber, and eating more cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. At natural-foods markets, you can also find traditionally prepared sauerkraut and pickles as well as delicious Asian delicacies such as kimchi (a staple of the Korean diet made from daikon, a type of radish), tempeh, and miso. If you don’t each much of these foods, you might want to consider a probiotic supplement. With regular supplementation, your good bugs will flourish – and so will you.