Overloading my brain with info about good bacteria or flora in the gut has been my latest pastime. Don’t think, “That’s nice but it does not apply to me.” In truth, you cannot escape the relevance of this topic to your life.
Good bacteria are necessary to each of us for digestion, absorption and proper gut balance. Here are some things that destroy the good flora–
antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDS (like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxin), and possibly caffeine. Chlorine also kills good bacteria. (Flora and bacteria are used interchangably in the literature. Flora is actually a misnomer. Initially these organisms were thought to be plants. This was later shown to be untrue, however the name stuck.)
Promoting growth of candida or clostridium difficile can also crowd out the good bacteria causing an imbalance. Overgrowth of candida can come from excessive sugar or carbs in the diet. Antibiotics kill good bacteria, but allow candida albicans to flourish.
The results of imbalance can be malabsorption of nutients. If severe enough, one could be plagued by diarrhea or constipation. Diarrhea can mean poor nutrition due to malabsorption. Constipation results in reabsorption of toxins leading to immunity failures. Imbalanced gut bacteria has also been definitively linked to allergies and asthma. It is possibly linked to migraines and autism.
Lest you think that because you have not taken the above drugs, gut flora imbalance is not applicable to you, know this: antibiotics are in our drinking water. A high school student did a recent science project in Wheeling, WV. She tested the river water and drinking water for 3 different antibiotics. All 3 showed in both samples in significant quantities. Antibiotics are given routinely to farm animals to prevent diseases. They are also given in low dosages to promote weight gain in livestock.
Even childhood or short term antibiotics can have long lasting unbalancing effects. Whether you have taken antibiotics or you haven’t, this information applies to us all.
Symptoms of imbalance include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and chronic abdominal pain or discomfort. Chronic sinus problems may also be related. A coating on the tongue may show candida overgrowth in the mouth (also known as thrush). There may also be itching or irritation due to candida overgrowth in the vagina or rectal regions. Allergies, skin problems, asthma and vitamin deficiencies may eventually result from loss of good gut bacteria and overgrowth of the bad.
Here are some things I have gleaned from my study. 1.) Fermented foods have been a traditional probiotic source. We have lost the art of fermenting but it is not a difficult process. 2.) Supplements are not equal or universally helpful. Depending on your problem (constipation or diarrhea), and your depletion or overgrowth, you need different bacteria. For example if you tend towards diarrhea, you may have an overgrowth of clostridium difficile and you may need saccromyces boulardi. If you have chronic constipation, you may need lactobaccilus casei. Determining the actual number of live bacteria in supplements is tough. If you have allergies, the medium the cultures are grown in may also be a problem. One source of prescription grade probiotic supplements is Ultimate Flora by Renew Life. A hypoallerginic source is Pure Encapsulations. 3.) If you have candida overgrowth, you may need additional help to restore balance by taking Nystatin. The powdered form is the most potent and must be obtained by prescription. This only affects the gut if taken orally as it is not absorbed into the blood. It can also be used in douches or in enemas. An anti-candida diet is also needed to addresss this problem. (Check out the book– The Yeast Connection.) 4.) Experimenting with probiotics is not going to hurt you.
There are lots of resources out there to help in the rebalancing process. Basic info is in The Probiotics Revolution by Gary Huffnagle. Fermenting basics are on the website wildfermentation.com. There is a book by the same title, Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. Sally Fallon has published lots of good stuff. One of her books is called Nourishing Traditions. Liz Lipski, a nutritionist, has a focus on this area and has a website, lizlipski.com. Weston A. Price Foundation also has much info on the subject (westonaprice.com). Hawthorn University has free webinars on this subject and more.
There is lots of info out there, yet studying it makes one know that this is a fledgling field. Clearly, more info is needed to understand answers to the dilemma of gut imbalances.
How does all of this apply to cancer? To me, it seems obvious that this is the foundation for good health and nutrition. Good health starts in the gut. If it is not a solid foundation, your health is going to topple like a house of cards. The end point will be chronic diseases of malnutrition or toxicity like cancer.