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Take Back Your Life 7
In parts 1-6 of this series of articles titled "Take Back Your Life", we discussed what could be considered the four wheels of the human wellness vehicle. We discussed the importance of proper cell function, the necessity of having and maintaining a balanced endocrine system, and the role of vitamins and minerals, including certain trace minerals as they relate to wellness, the value of antioxidants, the necessity of consuming plenty of enhanced water and what roles lactoferrin (Lf) and proline-rich peptide (PRP), which act to regulate and balance the immune system, play in helping to maintain a healthy body. In this segment we shall discuss what elements in our food and supplements contribute to keeping the digestive functions working well and how that contributes to our health and a higher quality of life.
Since it is not so much what we EAT, but rather what we DIGEST that contributes to our state of health, it is important to consider how well our intestinal processes function. If we make healthy choices when selecting foods that will make up our diets, then we must thoroughly digest those foods in order to get all of the valuable nutrients we seek to benefit from. It is widely known that improper digestion and elimination contribute greatly to ill health and disease and that the cleaner and more efficient our intestinal systems are, the greater the chances that we can avoid the disease processes that often come with colon dysfunction and age.
As we age, we tend to produce lower amounts of those things needed to fully digest the food that we consume. Therefore it is often necessary to supplement our food intake with those enzymes, healthy flora, and bacteria that are necessary in order to fully break down our food and contribute to regular and trouble free digestion and elimination. One way to think of our digestive structures is a balanced ecosystem. One characteristic of any healthy ecosystem is the presence of a diversity of organisms. At birth, the human intestines contain no microorganisms. Shortly thereafter, depending upon the type of food ingested, they become populated with various genera of bacteria. The average modern human's gut is often not a healthy ecosystem. As stated previously, we must thoroughly digest those foods in order to get all of the valuable nutrients we seek to benefit from. Therefore it is often necessary to supplement our food intake with those enzymes, healthy flora, and bacteria that are necessary in order to fully break down our food and contribute to regular and trouble free digestion and elimination. What follows is information regarding some healthy gut elements that may contribute to proper digestion and healthy colon issues.
One hallmark of any healthy ecosystem is the presence of a diversity of organisms. Lactose and oligosaccharides are two of the most abundant soluble nutrients in human milk. Some enzymes in breast milk can facilitate the digestion of lactose and oligosaccharides, breaking both alpha and beta bonds and releasing simple sugars. Most lactose and oligosaccharide digestion, however, depends upon gut microflora. Within 3-4 days after birth, colons of breast-fed infants become populated with microflora that consists of about 99% Lactobacillus species.
While a healthy adult's large intestine is normally populated by as many as 500 microbial species, many adults may lack adequate levels of lactobacilli bacteria. After weaning, approximately 70% of the world's population no longer has the enzyme required to digest lactose--that is, they become lactase deficient. Indeed, the average modern human's gut is frequently not a healthy ecosystem. Modern consumption of bacteria is estimated to be a million times less than levels consumed by our Stone Age ancestors. Antibiotics can drastically reduce or eliminate lactobacilli from the intestinal microflora. Abusive dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and stress can also disturb the microbial ecology of the gut.
As early as 1908, the Nobel laureate Metchnikoff advocated the consumption of lactobacilli, stating that "ingested lactobacilli can displace toxin-producing bacteria, promoting health and prolonging life." Metchnikoff's insight reflected the intuitive wisdom of human societies that have consumed yogurt and fermented milk for thousands of years. Today, a growing appreciation of the importance of a healthy population of bacteria (and some species of yeast) in the colon, and recognition of the health benefits of certain species has spurred interest in the consumption of these living organisms (probiotics), particularly lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
L. acidophilus has received the most attention as a health-promoting probiotic. In vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated that some strains of L. acidophilus can adhere to human intestine cells; adhesion and survival are enhanced by milk. Ingestion of L. acidophilus significantly increases the number of lactobacilli in the colon. Numerous animal studies have reported that L. acidophilus consumption can decrease serum cholesterol levels. A laboratory study found that L. acidophilus could remove cholesterol from the laboratory medium only in the presence of bile and under anaerobic conditions (e.g., the environment of the colon).
Any bacterium that produces lactase can improve lactose malabsorption. Some strains of lactobacillus can degrade lactose. L. acidophilus consumption improves lactose utilization following milk consumption. Lactose-intolerant children consuming L. acidophilus-inoculated milk or yogurt experienced decreased symptoms compared with those consuming milk products without L. acidophilus.
L. acidophilus produces many antibiotic-like compounds that are effective against numerous undesirable bacterial pathogens. L. acidophilus supplementation can significantly reduce the incidence of systemic candidiasis in imminodeficient mice. Phagocytosis of E. coli was enhanced when individuals consumed a fermented product containing adherent strains of L. acidophilus. Dietary L. acidophilus has successfully been used to treat patients with a variety of intestinal disorders, and can reduce staphylococcal growth during antibiotic therapy.
Milk, yogurt or colostrum fermented with L. acidophilus has been shown to inhibit the production of implanted tumor cells in mice. Additionally consumption of L. casei demonstrated a strong tendency in protecting against enteropathogens, including Salmonella typhimurium and E. coli. Further studies have shown that supplementation with L. casei can shorten episodes of acute diarrhea in children.
Peppermint is another common element that has historically been accepted as producing a beneficial effect on digestion processes. Studies have demonstrated the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal attributes of peppermint oil. Peppermint oil can provide relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and can reduce postoperative nausea.
Known as prebiotics because they support a healthy bacterial flora in the gut, soluble dietary fibers (including gums) form a gel, providing the matrix in which bacteria survive and physicochemical interactions can occur. Many studies have reported favorable effects of soluble dietary fiber on blood pressure, obesity, serum lipids, diabetes (serum blood sugar), coronary artery disease, and some cancers. Populations that consume high-fiber diets have a lower incidence of numerous gastrointestinal (GI) complaints, including gallstones, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease of the colon, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, and hiatal hernia. A review of over 200 epidemiologic studies found that dietary fiber is among a group of fruit and vegetable-derived substances that show particular promise in cancer prevention.
Over 200 human studies have supported the conclusion that a diet rich in soluble fiber may lower plasma cholesterol. As little as 8 grams of various gums can lower serum total cholesterol. The role of dietary fiber with respect to diabetes is also important. Diabetics who increase their consumption of soluble fiber can experience a drastic reduction of insulin dosage and improved control of serum glucose. The soluble fiber component of the diet can significantly reduce postprandial blood glucose concentrations in patients with either type I or type II diabetes. Twelve daily grams of XG lowered fasting and post-glucose feeding serum glucose levels and reduced fasting levels of total plasma cholesterol in diabetic subjects.
A large portion of the body's immune system is localized to the GI wall and in mesenteric lymph nodes. XG is a potent polyclonal activator of lymphocytes, stimulating immature B cell populations and the production of IgM and IgG antibodies.
Studies have shown that soluble fiber can enhance intestinal immune function. A large portion of the body's immune system is localized to the gastrointestinal (GI) wall and in mesenteric lymph nodes. Bacteria form a protective layer and help regulate inflammation and immunity. Elimination of bacteria from the mouse GI tract by antibiotics results in significant immune response suppression, suggesting that intestinal bacteria play an important role in host defense. In an animal study, consumption of gum acacia stimulated intestinal and splenic immune system function.
The recommended daily dietary fiber intake is 20-35 grams. The average North American consumes less than half the recommended amount--about 10 grams of fiber daily. The American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics consume even more - at least 40 grams of fiber daily. Because many individuals find it difficult to increase their fiber intake by over 100% through food sources, some physicians recommend concentrated fiber supplements to their patients.
To read more about why Steve is so passionate about moving toward wellness and how you can head that way through a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy gut food consumption and supplementation, go to: http://steve.myglycostore.com/go/gi-pro/
National Nutrition Month: Raising a Healthier Generation through Diet, Education - USDA.gov (press release) (blog)
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