Feeling It In Your Gut

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

Think about the ways we use the word gut…

We use our “gut” to describe a lot of the things we feel. You need to have guts to try something new… you can bust a gut laughing… your gut tells you when something is right.

We are learning that there may be more reason to use the word in these ways than we knew.

For example, a brand new study finds that your “gut” may control your organs.

What happens in your gut appears to activate your liver, and benefit your kidneys, colon, digestive tract, blood plasma, metabolism and reproductive system.

More on the study in a minute, but first, let me explain what makes this possible…

Inside your digestive system there are millions of little workers that are very busy protecting you. They keep you from getting infections, and help you digest your food and turn it into vitamins.

They’re tiny microorganisms called “flora.” You get them at birth, and they stay with you your whole life.

Your flora stay ready in your gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts to help activate your immune system.

They are experts at killing the deadly bacteria that can get into your body through the air and your food like E coli, salmonella and strep.

There are 400 different types of friendly little workers in your gut, and you may have heard of a few of them.

One, called H. pylori, keeps your hunger in check so you don’t get fat.

Two others, L. acidophilus and B. bifidus seem to give you the most benefit. They can help rebuild your population of other types of friendly gut flora. And, these two may also produce B vitamins like niacin, folic acid, biotin, and B6, as well as vitamin K.

Without these vitamins, you wouldn’t be able to stay calm and relaxed, have strong bones, clear arteries, a sharp memory, normal hormones, or energy to get through the day.

If you’re a woman, you have flora in your reproductive tract, too. It makes lactic acid that protects you from infectious yeasts like Candida.

But the new study takes the benefits of flora to another level.

Researchers found that these millions of hard workers do even more than they thought.

They took mice that had no flora at all, and put them in an environment where they could build up normal levels. They planned to study them for 20 days.

It only took 5 days for the mice to fill out to a normal size. And their livers started to properly turn sugars and starches into energy. The flora also strongly stimulated an enzyme needed to keep cholesterol levels normal.1

In fact, the flora had a positive effect on every organ and body system the researchers looked at.

And these microorganisms might be some of the best defenders and allies we have against the lightning-fast changes forced on our bodies by the modern world.

Scientists are even starting to use flora like this to help plants biodegrade different kinds of pollution.2

I always knew the flora in your gut were a vital part of your metabolism and good health, which is why I seldom prescribe antibiotics in my practice.

Antibiotics wipe out all the flora in your gut so you lose the protection they give you. And it’s especially dangerous to overuse antibiotics. Overuse has created “superbugs” that your flora can no longer protect you from.

Healthy flora is also one of the reasons I recommend eating grass-fed beef.

Because of the drive for profit in the cattle industry, ranchers have switched from feeding the animals their native diet of grass to feeding them cheap grains, corn, soy and wheat because that makes the animals very fat quickly. But this also makes the animals sick, so ranchers have to give them antibiotics to keep them alive.

And unfortunately, the antibiotics get passed on to you when you eat the grain-fed beef.
One thing I’ve found in my 20 years treating thousands of patients is that prevention is much easier than the cure.

In this case, it’s much easier to keep your flora healthy than to try to build it back up after the modern world and Western diet destroy it all.

So here are 4 steps to help protect you and increase your flora, so you can have more energy, stay lean, and prevent infections:

  1. Eat foods that promote healthy flora: Some of these foods will have what are called “prebiotics” that promote flora. Others will have flora in them already.
    • Foods with prebiotics are onions, garlic, asparagus, artichokes and almonds.
    • A type of prebiotic that encourages beneficial flora is a type of fiber called inulin. This fiber resists digestion from the small intestine and reaches the large intestine intact, where your flora gets the most benefit from it. Bananas, asparagus, chicory root, dandelion green, and high-fiber vegetables like leeks, peas, and beans all have this type of fiber.
    • Foods with flora already in them include raw coconut milk and yogurt. Be sure to check out the labels on foods you might buy at the store. They should say “live cultures” so you know they contain the kind of flora that will benefit you. Also, sauerkraut and Kimchi are made by using live flora.
  2. Don’t kill your flora: Additives and chemicals will tend to kill off your beneficial flora.

    For example, Duke University did a study where they gave animals an FDA-accepted level of the artificial sweetener Splenda. The sweetener killed off most of the animals’ flora.

    Even after stopping the Splenda, the animals’ level of one of the most beneficial kinds of flora, bifidobacteria (it’s one of the first kinds of flora you get as an infant and essential for normal development) never went back to normal.3

  3. Don’t feed bad bacteria: Sugar and starches are bad bacteria’s favorite meal. The more you feed them, the faster they’ll multiply in your body. That can lead to fungal infections, yeast overgrowths, and even disease. Not to mention gas and bloating.
  4. Take probiotics: Probiotic supplements are available as liquids, powders, tablets, or capsules. The live microorganisms in probiotics slow the growth of bad bacteria and help maintain the right balance of good bacteria.

Probiotic supplements help in two ways:

  • They secrete various substances, such as lactic and acetic acids, to decrease the pH of the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, rendering them less hospitable to pathogenic bacteria.
  • They also secrete bacteriocins which are natural antibiotics that kill undesirable bacteria.

You should try to get at least a billion microorganisms per day so you can keep the right amount of flora in your system. It will help you restore and re-energize the ecology of your gut.

The trick is to find a probiotic that has live, viable microorganisms, with a diverse mix of species.

Many of the average probiotics you’ll find will say they have “live organisms,” and they might have when the capsule was bottled. But the cheap ones won’t have used processes or packaging that promotes a long shelf life for the flora.

You want to either make sure you get the freshest package available, or spend a little more to get a better brand.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD signature

Al Sears, MD

[1] Ricketts, Marie-Louise, et al, “The Cholesterol-Raising Factor from Coffee Beans, Cafestol, as an Agonist Ligand for the Farnesoid and Pregnane X Receptors,” Molecular Endocrinology 2007;21(7):1603-1616
[2] Rylott, Elizabeth L., et al, “An explosive-degrading cytochrome P450 activity and its targeted application for the phytoremediation of RDX,” Nature Biotechnology 2006;24:216-219
[3] Abou-Donia, et al, “Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats,” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 2008; 71(21):1415–1429