A microorganism is something that is so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye. Maybe it’s better that way, since there are tens of trillions of them living inside you. The small intestine houses many of those microorganisms but the large intestine houses more – much more.
Gut microbiota, or gut flora, use your intestine as a host. There may actually be up to 1,000 species of microorganisms inside your intestine1. The Journal of Immunology Research states: “The fact that the number of microbial cells composing the human microbiota surpasses that of our body cells allows us to foresee the existence of an intertwined relationship between the biology of the human host and such microorganisms, which has been moulded by millennia of evolution2.” The number of microorganisms along with their importance have helped to give gut bacteria the name “the forgotten organ.”
One common microorganism that is found inside your body is bacteria. In fact, it is estimated that the human body contains 10 times more bacteria than it does cells7. Most people view bacteria only as harmful, disease-causing microorganisms that attack the body. While there are many bacteria that are not good for us, there are, in fact, also some “good” bacteria. These good bacteria are called probiotics or commensal bacteria. Probiotic supplements can influence your overall health in many ways, including gastrointestinal and immune system support.
Your body needs certain kinds of gut flora because of the enzymes they have that are used to consume undigested carbohydrates. Probiotics help counter the body’s lack of gut flora. Increasing the number of good bacteria helps to decrease the number of bad bacteria in your gut.
An article entitled Intestinal Microbiota as Modulators of the Immune System and Neuroimmune System: Impact on the Host Health and Homeostasis helps us understand the relationship between probiotics and pathogenic bacteria: “Commensal bacteria, the most frequent microorganisms in intestinal environment, are beneficial for the host, while pathogenic bacteria are able to cause problems, such as gut inflammation and invasiveness. The symbiosis process happens when there is a favourable balance between commensal bacteria and pathogenic bacteria over a period of time.2”
Many of us lack healthy amounts of gut flora required for optimal digestive health. These good bacteria need to be replenished and are a nutrient that the body regularly needs. Very few foods offer a natural source of probiotics. Those that do are fermented foods such as yogurt, soy drinks and miso. However, most of these foods do not contain therapeutic doses of probiotics.
When the body lacks the good bacteria needed to digest efficiently and effectively, other body systems are affected. Most noticeably affected might be the immune system. Digestive stress or improper digestion withholds essential nutrients from the life-sustaining immune system. “Recent researches show that the immune system, when altered by the gut microbiota, influences the state in which these diseases are presented in the patient directly and indirectly2.”
Furthermore, probiotics play a role in fighting off harmful bacteria. “The balance between this complex community of gut bacteria, food nutrients, and intestinal genomic and physiological milieu is increasingly recognized as a major contributor to human health and disease3.”
Thus the importance of probiotic supplements. These supplements are safe and easy to take if you find a healthy, substantial source of probiotics. Nature’s Sunshine has a variety of probiotic supplements. Its most popular probiotic product is Probiotic Eleven. Try probiotic supplements today for relief from intestinal stress and an overall feeling of improved health.
Our newest probiotic supplement is called Nutribiome Bacillus Coagulans. Bacillus Coagulans is one of the good bacteria that may provide relief from occasional diarrhea, bloating and gas. Best of all, you don’t have to refrigerate this bottle of probiotic dietary supplements! They are shelf stable.
Probiotics/Prebiotics and the Food You Eat
Probiotics occur naturally inside your body but there are a couple of ways you can get them into your body. We’ve already talked about supplements. The second way is through the foods you eat.
“Controlling gut bacteria, for example by dietary modification, offers the prospect of improving health, especially in elderly people4.” – ELDERMET
Yogurt is one of the foods that contain probiotics. You’ll want to look at the label because not all yogurts have probiotics. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the probiotic that can be found in yogurt.
Kim Chi, a fermented Korean dish, includes vegetables (typically cabbage and peppers) along with a few spices and fish sauce or paste.
Sauerkraut is known by many as a hot dog topping. It’s much better for you than the dog it adorns. Sauerkraut is simply cabbage that has been pickled. If you want sauerkraut with probiotics, make sure that the sauerkraut isn’t pasteurized. The pasteurization process kills bacteria – both the good and the bad. Better yet, make your own!
Pickles – hold the vinegar! Use pickles that have been made using a saltwater brine, not vinegar.
Kefir is a drink that is full of probiotics. It tastes a bit like liquid yogurt.
Miso soup is a combination of dashi (dried seaweed and fish) and miso paste (fermented soybeans, barley, brown rice, and more) with sliced green onions and cubed tofu as a garnish.
You can see that most of the foods listed above are fermented. During the process of fermentation, probiotics eat up carbohydrates in the food product and end up outnumbering the bad bacteria.
There are also foods that contain prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for probiotics. These foods, along with others, contain prebiotics: asparagus, bananas, honey, legumes, and oatmeal.
This quote, from a 2011 article entitled Gut microbiome-host interactions in health and disease states “Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome performs numerous important biochemical functions for the host, and disorders of the microbiome are associated with many and diverse human disease processes6.”
For more information, listen to this half hour broadcast on Gut Microbiota from the BBC:
“Scientists are learning more and more about the importance of these bacteria, as well as the viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tracts. Without them, our digestion, immune system and overall health would be compromised.
Adam Hart talks to researchers who are discovering how important a balanced and robust gut microflora is for our health. And he asks how this can be maintained and what happens when things go wrong.”
Fermented Foods Infographic
Nutribiome Probiotics Video
1: Qin J., Li R., Raes J., et al. A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing. Nature. 2010;464(7285):59–65. doi: 10.1038/nature08821.
2: Intestinal Microbiota as Modulators of the Immune System and Neuroimmune System: Impact on the Host Health and Homeostasis
J Immunol Res. 2015; 2015: 931574.
Published online 2015 Feb 22. doi: 10.1155/2015/931574
3: OMICS. 2011 Jul-Aug;15(7-8):419-30. doi: 10.1089/omi.2010.0109. Epub 2010 Dec 1.
The human gutome: nutrigenomics of the host-microbiome interactions.
A human gut microbial gene catalog established by metagenomic sequencing
Junjie Qin,1,* Ruiqiang Li,1,* Jeroen Raes,2,3 Manimozhiyan Arumugam,2 Kristoffer Solvsten Burgdorf,4 Chaysavanh Manichanh,5 Trine Nielsen,4 Nicolas Pons,6 Florence Levenez,6 Takuji Yamada,2 Daniel R. Mende,2 Junhua Li,1,7 Junming Xu,1 Shaochuan Li,1 Dongfang Li,1,8 Jianjun Cao,1 Bo Wang,1 Huiqing Liang,1 Huisong Zheng,1 Yinlong Xie,1,7 Julien Tap,6 Patricia Lepage,6 Marcelo Bertalan,9 Jean-Michel Batto,6 Torben Hansen,4 Denis Le Paslier,10 Allan Linneberg,11 H. Bjørn Nielsen,9 Eric Pelletier,10 Pierre Renault,6 Thomas Sicheritz-Ponten,9 Keith Turner,12 Hongmei Zhu,1 Chang Yu,1 Shengting Li,1 Min Jian,1 Yan Zhou,1 Yingrui Li,1 Xiuqing Zhang,1 Songgang Li,1 Nan Qin,1 Huanming Yang,1 Jian Wang,1 Søren Brunak,9 Joel Doré,6 Francisco Guarner,5 Karsten Kristiansen,13 Oluf Pedersen,4,14 Julian Parkhill,12 Jean Weissenbach,10 MetaHIT Consortium,§ Peer Bork,2 S. Dusko Ehrlich,6,† and Jun Wang1,13,†
Gut microbiome-host interactions in health and disease
Genome Med. 2011; 3(3): 14.
Published online 2011 Mar 4. doi: 10.1186/gm228