A balanced intestinal flora is the best source of health and wellness. However, if it is damaged, we will experience diseases and other different symptoms such as tiredness. That is why the regeneration of our intestinal flora should be one of our main concerns. But, which elements are beneficial and which are harmful? How can we know? We will discuss these aspects in this article.
- 1 What are the consequences of a damaged intestinal flora?
- 2 A healthy intestinal flora equals a stronger immune system
- 3 A healthy intestinal flora protects us against allergies
- 4 The healthier the intestinal flora, the more protected we will be
- 5 A healthy intestinal flora helps to lose weight
- 6 Controlling the intestinal flora
- 7 Nine things that damage our intestinal flora
- 8 Practical advice to keep a healthy intestinal flora
- 9 A healthy intestinal flora
What are the consequences of a damaged intestinal flora?
You may already know that a damaged intestinal flora can trigger chronic diseases, such as intestinal diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or digestive system disorders. But many people ignore all the other consequences it can entail. For example, those who suffer from obesity have a different intestinal flora than thin people, and the same happens with autism or rheumatism.
A medical research was conducted in 2004 and it reviewed the causes of intestinal dysbiosis. It was observed that the negative changes in the intestinal flora (dysbiosis) contribute to the onset of many chronic and degenerative diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal inflammation, arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (a rheumatic disease that causes rigidity in the spine).
The researchers reported that the Western lifestyle mainly involves an unhealthy diet, the frequent consumption of antibiotics and stressful situations. All these factors have a very detrimental effect, which is why it is advisable to suppress them.
The conclusion reached by this study is that the intestinal flora does not only affect the intestines. Rather, it also affects our health completely, both our wellness and well-being. An imbalance can cause pathologies of all kinds.
A healthy intestinal flora equals a stronger immune system
The intestinal flora is made up of billions of bacteria that colonize our digestive system. They are ten times more numerous than our own cells. Among them are those that are beneficial, called probiotics, which perform several tasks, such as preventing the proliferation of harmful pathogenic bacteria as well as neutralizing the attack of toxins. In short, they protect our organism from all types of pollutants and help to detoxify the harmful elements.
For this reason, a healthy intestinal flora is a key element for our immune system and it directly affects our health by increasing our defenses.
A healthy intestinal flora protects us against allergies
We know that a healthy intestinal flora protects us against infections, but it has been recently discovered that it also helps to protect us from other pathologies, such as allergies, skin diseases and asthma.
It has been proven that pregnant women who are prone to suffering allergies can avoid them by taking quality probiotics (beneficial intestinal bacteria) which will strengthen their immune system and the future baby as well. In addition, consuming probiotics during breastfeeding lowers the risk of suffering eczema or other types of allergic problems for the baby.
The healthier the intestinal flora, the more protected we will be
A healthy intestinal flora prevents the risk of suffering food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease or fungal infections.
Taking probiotics is also very important to detect cancer and when following an antibiotic treatment for any disease.
A healthy intestinal flora helps to lose weight
A healthy intestinal flora contributes to stimulating more regular bowel movements and helps to regulate the cholesterol levels and it even supports weight loss.
Thus, we can find many reasons why we should take care of our intestinal flora. Make sure that your body has enough beneficial bacteria and combine it with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Nowadays, it is very important to have strong defenses to face the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. This is actually the only way to stay healthy and avoid the attack of pathogens or toxins that make contact with us during the whole day.
Controlling the intestinal flora
Our intestinal flora is constantly changing, so we can make it more regular and stronger.
There are beneficial bacteria in the human body that are constantly reproducing. But there are also others that are harmful. Due to this, the flora undergoes constant changes in its composition. These changes occur every day, every hour and every minute. Sometimes this new composition can be positive for us and sometimes it will be negative.
Fortunately, we can influence these changes if we know how to do so. We can do certain things to stimulate the production of beneficial bacteria and the reduction of the harmful ones, controlling the effect of the parasites and fungi.
However, there are also certain things that cause an explosive reproduction of parasites and pathogens. How can we avoid this? Here we explain the nine key things that can damage our intestinal flora.
Nine things that damage our intestinal flora
Antibiotics take the first position on this list.
Antibiotics destroy both harmful and beneficial bacteria. And now we know that a change in the flora makes us more vulnerable to all kinds of pathologies.
Some people believe that the intestinal flora regenerates itself after taking antibiotics. This may be the case for some people, but it takes up to six months to do so. Many things can happen in such a long period of time, such as the fact that the harmful intestinal bacteria can grow faster than the beneficial ones.
The conclusion is that an automatic regeneration does not occur on its own in these cases. This is why, if we cannot avoid taking an antibiotic treatment, the best choice is to support the regeneration of the intestinal flora, as we explain at the end of this article.
2. Contraceptive pills and hormone formulas
The consumption of hormone products affects the health of the intestine.
A clinical study conducted on oral contraceptives, reproductive factors and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, showed that women who take oral contraceptives have a significantly higher risk of developing inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. The results of this study were published in 2012 in the prestigious journal Science.
Earlier clinical studies, conducted in the 1990s, had already shown how oral contraceptives harm the intestinal flora, especially in the case of pills with high-doses of estrogens.
3. Chlorine from tap water
Tap water is treated with chlorine to disinfect it so that it can be drinkable for human beings. But chlorine is a chemical product that not only disinfects the bacteria in the water, but it also destroys the beneficial intestinal bacteria.
There was a scientific study titled Prebiotics, fecal transplants and microbial network units to stimulate the biodiversity of the good human microbiome and published in 2013 in the Microbial Biotechnology journal. It concluded that the unnecessary use of antibiotics and the excessive hygiene of chlorinated water, along with others risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet, reduce the microbial diversity in the intestine, resulting in bowel inflammation and obesity.
To build a healthy intestinal flora, scientists advise taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements.
Prebiotics are substances that feed the beneficial intestinal bacteria. Probiotics by themselves have no use if they are not combined with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are found in some foods such as chicories or Jerusalem artichokes. We can also find them in the form of dietary supplements like inulin and oligosaccharides, which have recently shown anti-cancer effects.
However, taking prebiotics and probiotics is pointless if we keep on taking unnecessary antibiotics and water with chlorine, since chlorine affects the intestinal flora. Therefore, it is advisable to drink mineral water or to use a good water filter at home that eliminates the chlorine from the water.
How can we avoid drinking water with chlorine? Water filters are particularly suitable because they purify the water in a similar way to how it naturally happens with rainwater. Rainwater filters slowly through the different layers of rock before it becomes clear and pure spring water.
If you also want to avoid skin contact with the toxic chlorine you can change a conventional shower for a special one that has multiple levels of filters to remove the chlorine and other possible pollutants. At the same time, this special head helps to reduce the consumption of water while allowing you to enjoy a delicious shower with clean water for your skin.
How does fluoride affect our health? Fluoride also destroys the healthy intestinal flora in the same way antibiotics do. Fluoride is added to drinking water in some countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. This is no longer allowed in Europe. However, it is contained in many toothpastes and many types of salt.
That is why it is advisable to buy toothpaste without fluoride and fluoride-free salt. If you live or travel to a country where drinking water is treated with fluoride, use a quality water filter, as we previously said.
5. Sugar and Fat
Sugar is the product that damages our intestinal flora the most. It produces dysbiosis (damaged intestinal flora) when combined with unhealthy fats.
There is a scientific study titled Western diet induces dysbiosis with increased E coli in CEABAC10 mice, alters host barrier function favouring AIEC colonisation that was published in 2013. According to this study, an unhealthy western diet with a lot of sugar and lots of fat is a risk factor for the onset of inflammatory bowel diseases and Crohn’s disease.
How do sugar and fat affect trigger these pathologies? According to this study, high levels of sugar and fats produce infections and dysbiosis in the gut. This reduces the thickness of the intestinal mucosa and consequently increases its permeability, which alters the intestinal mucosa and triggers its inflammation along with the proliferation of toxic and harmful elements.
6. Acidification of the food
The typical western diet includes unhealthy fats and sugar, as well as a lot of processed foods that are harmful for our organism. They produce an overload that the body cannot handle, triggering chronic acidosis.
How can the acidification of food damage our health? The acidity is closely related to dysbiosis, so that a higher acidity produces more dysbiosis, which in turn causes a higher acidity.
This process hinders the absorption of nutrients and minerals by the body and produces an imbalance in the intestinal flora. Minerals are essential to buffer the acidity, but if the body is not absorbing the necessary minerals, the acidification increases even more.
On the other hand, the acidification causes an imbalance in the pH levels of the digestive system. All this contributes to a favorable environment for the proliferation of pathogens and fungi (e.g: Candida albicans).
Therefore, dysbiosis has many negative effects, since, apart from destroying the intestinal flora, it produces acidification and hinders the absorption of minerals.
7. Food additives
One of the most negative things of our modern world is the large amount of food additives with an artificial origin.
How do food additives damage our health? The prestigious medical journal “Complementary Therapies in Medicine” has published a study on intestinal dysbiosis. It classifies oral contraceptives, food additives, and antibiotics as triggers of an imbalance of the intestinal flora.
The researchers from this study observed that the consequences of dysbiosis go beyond an indigestion. They pointed out that disturbed intestinal flora can lead to an increased permeability of the intestinal mucosa and a higher difficulty to absorb nutrients, triggering, with it, many systemic pathologies.
Other studies have reported that a dysbiosis with an infection can cause increased susceptibility to infections and chronic fatigue until the immune system collapses completely.
That is why we must avoid processed foods or, at least, control their ingredients and not consume foods with too many food additives or that are unknown to us. It is better to eat fresh food prepared at home and buy fruit and vegetables from ecological agriculture, since they lack pesticide residues that are harmful for our health.
8. Residues of pesticides and insecticides
How do pesticide residues affect our health? Pesticide residues in food is an issue that is not being given the attention it deserves. This is why we tend to take for granted that the food institutions already control the safety limits.
Apart from the pesticides in food, we irresponsibly use all kinds of poisons contained in insecticides, mothballs, flea collar for dogs and cats… an endless list of products which are very dangerous and which we use on a daily basis.
One of the most used pesticides is made of chlorpyrifos under different trade names which is a very dangerous poison.
Insecticides damage childrens’ brain
Several scientific studies published in 2012 have proven that the use of pesticides can damage the brain of fetuses, and that insect repellents are very dangerous for children.
One of these studies was titled Brain abnormalities in children prenatally exposed to a common organophosphate pesticide. It helped to establish a link between the use of toxic pesticides, like chlorpyrifos, with the abnormalities in the brains of the fetus. It also proved that they cause decreased mental performance in those children that are exposed to these environmental toxins. In short, an ant-free garden is less important than the health of our children.
The following scientific study was published in 2013: Impact of chronic exposure to low doses of chlorpyrifos on the intestinal microbiota in the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME) and in rats. It showed the harmful effects of chlorpyrifos on the composition of the intestinal flora of mammals even in small doses and its connection to dysbiosis.
Detox with organic food
Ther was another study published in 2008 titled Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children. The scientists revealed that exposing the children to pesticides from treated foods can damage their intestinal flora. This does not happen when the food that is consumed comes from ecological agriculture.
This is the reason why we must be aware of what we eat and try to consume organically cultivated products.
Stress is another factor that damages the intestinal flora. Although it is difficult to avoid stress on a daily basis, we have to be aware that it is harmful and we must try to control it, since it can lead to all kinds of pathologies.
A study published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal in 2012 showed how stress damages the intestinal flora and increases the blood pressure. If we supply the beneficial intestinal bacteria to the body, the flora will recover and the consequences of stress will disappear as well.
If, at the same time, we try to find moments of relaxation in our daily life, the condition of our intestinal flora will substantially improve.
Practical advice to keep a healthy intestinal flora
Here, we summarize the most important steps that can be taken to regenerate our intestinal flora.
If you want to know what you can do to improve the health of your intestine, follow these simple tips every day:
- Avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Look for other alternatives.
- Avoid hormone compounds.
- Drink water without chlorine and use a quality water filter.
- Always choose toothpaste without fluoride and natural salt without fluoride.
- Avoid sugar and unhealthy fats.
- Follow a diet rich in nutrients and dietary supplements.
- Avoid precooked food.
- Preferably eat organic food.
- Try to avoid stress.
- Use special products to detoxify (bentonite), cleanse, and stimulate the intestinal peristalsis (with psyllium husk powder).
A healthy intestinal flora
We need to optimize the intestinal environment and its composition if we want to regenerate the intestinal flora.
1. How can we optimize the intestinal environment?
The best environment for the intestinal flora is the one in which there are more beneficial bacteria and less harmful ones.
How can we achieve this? There are products that contain microorganisms with prebiotic and probiotic effects that stimulate the flora. In addition, they are supplied along with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and a variety of highly effective antioxidant phytochemicals.
All these compounds improve a balanced intestinal environment, stimulating the regeneration of the mucosa, the elimination of metabolic waste, as well as a regular and healthy digestion.
2. How can we regenerate the intestinal flora?
The intestinal flora is regenerated by taking probiotics of natural and beneficial intestinal bacteria.
To ensure that the beneficial bacteria do not get lost among the stomach acids we must choose probiotics with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Additionally, they must also include other strains of bacteria so that our intestinal flora gets the necessary variety of basic probiotics to stay healthy.