Why Good Gut Bugs Are So Important for Fighting Illness and Staying Healthy

Why Good Gut Bugs Are So Important for Fighting Illness and Staying Healthy

Posted by in Book News, Guest Posts, Non-Fiction

Kathryn Marsden, the author of Good Gut Bugs, tells us why looking after our digestive health is vital. . .

If I told you that something you can’t even see with the naked eye – something that lives naturally in the murky depths of your digestive system – could be a major factor in determining the difference between health and disease, and that paying it a bit more attention could – significantly – alter the odds against getting sick, I’d like to bet that you’d be interested. Forget expensive drugs and extreme diets. This has to do with the work of some of the world’s leading scientists into the extraordinary goings-on in our intestines. To be specific, they’re studying – look away now if you’re squeamish – bacteria! If it makes you feel any better, be comforted by the fact that the particular bacteria in question are of the especially helpful and nice variety.

When someone mentions bacteria as I just did to you, most people will think of germs or infectious illness. But talk beneficial bacteria and I imagine nearly everyone will either picture a pot of yoghurt or at least make some kind of connection to the digestive system. The idea that fermented foods (those that are made as a result of bacterial changes) might be healthy for humans is nothing new. The use of fermentation as a way of preparing and preserving food is steeped in ancient traditions and, long before anyone knew anything about good gut bugs, so-called primitive peoples had already worked out for themselves that cultured dairy foods such as soured milks and yoghurts were somehow beneficial. Thanks to modern research, we now know that the reason why fermented foods are good for us is because they contain beneficial strains of ‘live culture’.  These days, we have come to know these live cultures by another name – PROBIOTICS.

Now bang up-to-date, the word ‘probiotic’ is part of everyday advertising and an ingredient in a whole range of yoghurts, yoghurt-type drinks (sometimes known as probiotic shots), milkshakes, smoothies, cereals, desserts, snacks, baby formula and, of course, supplements. Aside from foods, powders and pills, scientists are developing specific probiotics to prevent cavities, probiotic lozenges for sore throats, probiotic nasal sprays, probiotics to guard against ear infections, and deodorant sticks that deal with the bacteria which cause body odour. They’re talking about probiotic vaccines which might be able to treat inflammatory diseases and even probiotic cleaning products for the home.

But there’s a conundrum here. Apart from the microbiologists involved in the research and perhaps a few nutrition-oriented practitioners, it’s hard for most people to know whether a particular product or food is going to be helpful or not. What’s hype and what’s authentic? Is that probiotic pill a good one? Is that probiotic yoghurt really ‘live’?  Do those probiotic supplements genuinely contain enough active ingredients? Is it all just down to clever advertising? What does that label mean? You might even end up asking ‘Do I really need them?’

Yes, in all probability you do.

First of all, there’s no longer any doubt that maintaining the right level of beneficial bacteria in our intestines is incredibly important to the health of every human. That’s because these mysterious microflora protect us from a whole host of nasty diseases.

In fact, I wonder how many of us realise just how much of our health is controlled by good gut bugs and just how much can go wrong as a result of the lack of them. For example, it’s already been shown that probiotics can reduce the duration of colds and respiratory infections, protect against tooth decay (yes really), reduce the risk of urinary infections, clear up vaginal discharge, very importantly lessen the side effects caused by antibiotics, fight against hospital superbugs, cut the chances of going down with infective or travellers’ diarrhoea, settle disturbed digestion, and ease bloating and constipation.

I don’t believe that it’s an over-exaggeration to suggest that, in terms of health benefits and therapeutic activity, probiotics (especially when they are used in conjunction with important food substances known as prebiotics) could be to the 21st century what the good side of antibiotics were to the 20th.

Now, researchers are getting very excited about the possibility that probiotics (and their prebiotic team-mates) might have anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-allergic actions, and could hold an important key to serious conditions such as bowel cancer, asthma, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, type-1 diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity and chronic fatigue syndrome. They know, too, that probiotics can help to keep healthy people healthy, protecting us against illness! In other words, taking them when you are healthy and well could help to keep you that way. Enough good reasons to take a regular probiotic supplement, I’d say.

Some of my favourite probiotic products include those by Bionutri (www.bionutri.co.uk), Biocare (www.biocare.co.uk), Viridian (viridian-nutrition.co.uk) and Probiotic Blend (www.probioticblend.com).

Visit Kathryn Marsden’s website at www.kathrynmarsden.weebly.com. Good Gut Bugs is out now!

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