Getting to Know your Intestinal Flora

It’s normal to think of bacteria as something that’s bad for your overall health. After all, bacteria is often associated with disease.

Generally, you’d be right. However, there is such a thing as good bacteria. In fact, research shows that without the right bacteria in your digestive tract – your stomach and intestines – you’re at much greater risk for obesity, depression, and an immune system that’s less effective than it could be.

So while it’s a bit odd to wrap your head around the fact that you need bacteria in your diet, this is a nutritional fact you should be aware of.

You get these bacteria from a host of daily foods, the most popular is likely yogurt. This dairy product contains lactobacillus, bifidus, and acidophilus. These are three major bacteria that your body needs in order to break down food and distribute the food’s necessary nutrients to the rest of your body. When you have the right amounts of these types of bacteria present your body is able to literally squeeze the most out of the food you eat, meaning less of it goes to waste.

Another great bacteria to have in your diet is called lactobacilli plantarum. This particular bacteria has been proven to give your immune system a huge boost – something we could all use, right?

That’s not the only thing lactobacilli plantarum can do for you, though. It also aids in helping your body digest lactose-based foods much easier (think dairy products) so if you love cheese or milk but don’t enjoy the infrequent bouts of indigestion that come as a result of dairy consumption, adding this particular bacteria to your diet can be exceptionally helpful.

Lactobacilli plantarum is commonly found in sauerkraut, which is great news for those of you who love hot dogs at summer ball games. Consequently, sauerkraut is one of the new favorite foods of dietitians across the country.

Lastly, you’ll want to find good sources of probiotics in general. If dairy or sauerkraut aren’t your idea of enjoyable diet foods, then you should definitely look at some of the different probiotic dietary supplements on the market. These are often capsules (though some come in the form of teas) that you take with or without food throughout the day to ensure that your body has a high enough level of all of these bacteria that help your intestinal tract function properly.

While looking at bacteria – affectionately, the flora and fauna of your digestive system – as integral to your overall health goes against the grain of regular thought, it’s definitely something to remember. Without these important bacteria, you’ll have a much harder time maintaining the level of health you want – and deserve.

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