Generally, we do not imagine it with pleasure. Being “civilized” people, we do not talk readily about processes taking place in the abdomen and intestines. What happens in the restroom is exclusively our business and remains where we left it, we might think. Well, as long as everything goes well, it is really so.
However, we should remember where this process starts and where it goes. What is a normal and everyday thing for an adult is anxiously watched in a newborn by their mommy. Is their stool normal and regular every day? When it comes to hospital provision or post-operative conditions, it is also important whether normal digestion proceeds or not. A mother is reassured when the stool of her baby is O.K. A retired person would also be just as reassured with the condition of their own stool.
Our intestinal flora and its health gains more emphasis in everyday life. However, only a few people know that 70-80% of our immune system can be found in the intestinal tract. So our intestinal system not only participates in digestion and elimination, but also in the functioning of the immune system.
Show me your intestinal flora and I will tell you who you are.
In several European languages the whole of bacteria and microorganisms is expressed with a combination of words, including the word FLORA, and it is not by chance. The word flora botanically refers to the vegetation of a given area or period. The word itself originates from the name of the goddess Flora who in Roman mythology was the goddess of flowers and springtime.
The intestinal system is also a given, well-determined area. In an adult person, the total surface area of the digestive tract is approximately 400 square meters, that is at least the basic area of 4, fairly large apartments, and its length can be estimated as 8-9 meters. In the intestinal flora as much as 400-500 species may be found, and their weight may reach 1 ó kilograms. A part of these species are constantly present in our body, while others arejust “through passengers”.
The development of the intestinal flora starts in infancy, with birth and breast-feeding. In an optimally functioning body “beneficial bacteria and fungi” (the so called probiotics e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus) block the colonization and multiplication of “bad bacteria” for example, Salmonella, Clostridium, and certain species of E.coli. They support the functioning of the immune system, absorption of minerals and metabolic processes. They prevent the multiplication of fungi and viruses. They produce important nutrients, in addition to destroying cholesterol while synthesizing vitamins for the body.
Damaged intestinal flora
Intestinal flora, which is sterile at birth then developing by the effects of breast-milk is exposed to attacks as years pass by. Some people leading a “modern life” ie. smoking, consuming alcohol, living a stressful life, – do not take into consideration where their unhealthy life would lead to in the long run. The balance of intestinal flora, depending on an unhealthy way of life and diseases, may be easily upset and its functioning may become insufficient. Frequent complaints may include constipation; change of defecation habits, abdominal pain, flatulence and these symptoms may all lead to chronic intestinal diseases increasing the vulnerability of our immune system. Consequently, the weakening of the immune system may result in further related ailments.
A healthy way of life
It is not only the “health of intestinal flora” which has great promotional value today. The expression “healthy way of life” has become commonplace as well. Its significance is still unquestionable. Regular exercise and regular diet rich in fruit and vegetables , omitting red meats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, flour etc.) and adequate liquid intake may all contribute to our good health. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, by taking dietary supplements containing probiotics and prebiotics, aiding the multiplication of healthy intestinal flora, you may also do a lot to make all processes go without problems in the smallest room of the house.
Factors endangering the balance of the intestinal flora
- Antibiotics which may upset the equilibrium of bacteria and fungi.
- Improper or one-sided diet, for example excessive protein, meat, fat or refined carbohydrate intake or a low fiber diet.
- Certain purifying and juice fast diets, colon hydrotherapies performed without medical monitoring and advice.
- Preservatives ingested with meals, and other artificial substances.
- Antacids and medications decreasing gastric juice production.
- Hormonal drugs and contraceptives.
- Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Constant elimination problems (constipation, diarrhea).
- Conditions and infections accompanying diarrhea.
- Excessive alcohol use.
- Inadequate liquid intake.
- Stress, sleep difficulties and/or sleep disorders.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies.