Health & Wellness Articles

How a Good Gut Keeps You Healthy

Want a Healthy Body? Cultivate a Healthy Gut

250SHARES
You've heard the rumblings about bacteria. Once seen as just dirty germs, these microbes are now more accurately divided into two categories: disease-causing agents, or "bad" bacteria, and health-promoting "good" bacteria.

Research is showing that digestive tract bacteria, in particular, play a role in both digestive wellness and overall health. In other words, the same tiny microbes that help ward off food poisoning, get your system back on track after a bout with the stomach flu and help digest food may also contribute to a stronger immune system, weight management and even mental resilience. Below are just some of the ways these "good" gut bacteria affect us in positive ways--even beyond digestive health.

Bolstering Immune System Function
According to a study on mice from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, helpful gut bacteria can help prime the immune system, allowing it to respond effectively to harmful microbes it encounters. This might explain why secondary infections develop after the use of antibiotics, which kill off both good and bad bacteria.

How does this happen? Basically, white blood cells that recognize bacteria are primed or "warmed up" when in the presence of healthful bacteria, and can respond appropriately when harmful bacteria invade the body. Researchers hypothesize that broad-spectrum antibiotics, which kill of a range of bacteria rather than targeting a specific strain, detract from this priming by eliminating this baseline level of function.

Think of it as you would think about running: It's hard to go from standing to sprinting, but you might be able to switch into a sprint if you're already jogging. In this example, an antibiotic is an agent that keeps your body's white blood cells standing still, rather than jogging to warm up.

Staving Off Infection
Research evidence is mixed (it tends to vary by condition), but much investigation is being done to uncover how a healthy balance of gut bacteria might contribute to infection prevention. For example, some studies have shown that using probiotics to re-colonize the gut, especially after a course of antibiotics, can prevent diarrhea associated with antibiotic use.

In other infections caused or perpetuated by an imbalance of gut bacteria (such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, a type of vaginal infection) probiotics are being tried as possible preventatives. This means that supplementing the body with the appropriate strain of "good" bacterial may help rebalance the body, thereby allowing it to fight off infection-causing agents on its own. In other words, a healthy gut really can boost your overall health.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›
250SHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • PUGGLEMONKEY
    So....what are you supposed to do to get your gut in balance? What should you eat, any supplements to take etc? Good question about the garlic - we eat a lot of it in my house. - 2/28/2014 11:29:47 AM
  • Good information. There are some other things I've never seen addressed that I think should be. 1: Garlic is often called nature's antibiotic; does it kill all bacteria, including the good, or just the bad? Or does it really kill any of it? 2: Horseradish is said to fight infections; does it have any effect on good bacteria? - 2/28/2014 10:32:50 AM
  • HOOLAHOOP2
    It is absolutely essential that the gut is healthy to feel good. I have personally witnessed how bad I can feel if it is out of order. In 2010, I had a thyroidectomy. Little did I know that that little gland has everything to do with how the body performs. My digestion was completely off. I had to find something to take beside the pharmaceutical meds. I am not one to take medicine, especially if I don't absolutely have to. So I went on a search for something that could support my digestion that was more natural. Taking probiotics and enzymes have absolutely helped me. There are many probiotics on the market, so it is imperative that you find the one that is best for you. - 2/27/2014 3:22:09 PM
  • Is anyone using "Keybiotics" and do you this product is effective to treat candida? - 1/29/2014 9:16:17 AM
  • Informative about why bacteria is good, but nothing about HOW to cultivate good bacteria. - 1/28/2014 10:18:30 AM

x Lose 10 Pounds by October 14! Get a FREE Personalized Plan