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The Tranquil Way

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The power of

There are 10 times more bacteria in and on or bodies than human cells. These bacteria actually function as part of our bodies. A large portion of these bacteria reside in the gut, making up the gut microbiome. They interact with the immune cells present there, which make up 60 to 80 per cent of the immune system. There are about 1,000 different types of bacteria residing there and they must be properly balanced. About 40 different diseases have been found to be associated with the imbalance of these bacteria.

Probiotics are bacteria from different sources that help improve the balance of these bacteria. These sources include foods and supplements. To be of significant health benefit, it is thought that a source must provide at least one billion live, safe, and helpful bacteria.

Some foods that contain probiotics include kefer, kimchi, yogurt, sweet acidophilus milk, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, aged soft cheese, and sour pickles.

Probiotics work better if they are supplied with nutrients that support their health (prebiotics). These can be found in asparagus, artichoke, honey, garlic, banana, lentils, barley, milk, leeks, soybean, wheat, tomato, sugarcane juice, sugar beet, onions, and rye.

disorders

Some of the disorders associated with an imbalanced microbiome include allergic conditions (such as urticaria, asthma, and eczema); diabetes (types 1 and 2); hypertension; high cholesterol; obesity; arthritis (all types); psychiatric disorders (such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive/compulsive disorder); developmental disorders (such as autism); vaginal discharges; and gastrointestinal disorders (such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, constipation, irritable bowel disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and paediatric abdominal pain).

This imbalance may be triggered by stress, poor food choices, improper rest, antibiotic use, and environmental changes (e.g. seasonal/temperature changes). As we get older, we are more likely to have an imbalanced microbiome, which is probably part of the reason inflammation increases in older age groups, leading to increased risk of chronic illnesses.

Using probiotics may prove helpful in the treatment of these problems. They have been proven helpful in the treatment of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, Helicobacter pylori infection, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and ulcerative colitis. Studies suggest they may also be helpful in the treatment of eczema, acne, lactose intolerance, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, high cholesterol, and in preventing respiratory infections. They also improve glucose control and the treatment of cancer.

Almost anyone can use probiotics safely, even long term, except when the immune system is weakened.