Normally you have between 4 and 7 pounds of bacteria in your colon. Normal and well-balanced bacteria have many beneficial functions.
Beneficial bacteria do the following:
- Produce vitamins like folic acid and B12.
- Nourish the lining of the colon by feeding on vegetable fiber and producing butyric acid. Adequate butyric acid levels reduce the chances for colon cancer.
- Inhibit harmful bacteria.
- Break down toxins.
Other bacteria and yeast normally exist, but in smaller numbers. Think of the GI tract as an ecosystem, with a balance between beneficial and not-so-beneficial microorganisms. When the ecosystem is out of balance, your health can be adversely affected.
Harmful microorganisms do the following:
- Inhibit normal bacteria, creating deficiencies of nutrients and other problems.
- Produce toxins. Harmful bacteria create toxins and inhibit normal bacteria from detoxifying the bowel. Toxins can burden the liver and affect every function in the body.
- Hydrogenate polyunsaturated fatty acids (read about the damage done by hydrogenated oils in the section on basic diet).
- Irritate the lining of the intestine, increasing intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
Allergies, chemical sensitivities, fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, digestive problems, skin problems, headaches, joint pain and virtually any chronic health problem can be caused by dysbiosis. These health problems are the result of nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, GI irritation and challenges to the immune system brought about by dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis can be caused by improper eating, exposure to toxins like chemicals and heavy metals, drug therapy, poor enzyme production, nutrient deficiency or poor immune function.
Finnish researchers performed a double-blind, placebo controlled study
published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (2002 Vol 109 No 1 pp 119-121) it showed that giving pregnant and nursing mothers probiotics increases the immunoprotective potential of breast milk, reducing the child’s tendency toward eczema during the first two years of life. Researchers concluded that allergies present in the mother were a risk factor for eczema in the infant. In addition, infants who appeared to benefit the most from maternalprobiotics supplementation were those whose cord blood Immunoglobulin E (IgE—an indicator of allergy) concentration was elevated.