MEN’S HEALTH: Good Bugs and Bad Bugs

mh-9.jpgAdding probiotics (good bacteria) to your diet can aid digestion and prevent disease. Those ‘good bugs’ are vital to men’s health.

A Persian tradition says that the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham, owed his longevity to the consumption of a kefir-like fermented milk. In India, they have always eaten yogurt-like curds to improve digestion, while in Asia, pickled vegetables have long supplied useful bacteria to the diet. Today, these substances are known as probiotics — helpful strains of the bacteria existing in the lining of our gut which are crucial to men’s health. Probiotics, whether from yoghurt or pickle juice, have been around for at least 5000 years.

Over 80% of our functioning immune system is located throughout our digestive tract, so maintaining a good balance of micro-flora is important to our overall health and wellness. We each have about 10 trillion cells that make up our bodies. Bacteria are much smaller than the cells in our body, which is why we can have 10X that number — 100 trillion bacteria living in our colon at any time! Our intestines are ‘home’ to around 500 different species of microorganisms, the majority of which assist us in digesting our food while producing essential vitamins and substances that can lower our cholesterol.

Having a proper balance of these ‘good’ bacteria is essential for maintaining optimal men’s health. When the ratio of micro-organisms is thrown off from a poor diet or through the use of antibiotics, dysfunction results — poor digestion, diarrhea, bloating or gas can occur. Our immune system silently suffers as well, eventually expressing as food allergies, H. pylori infections (causing stomach ulcers), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or even an inflammatory bowel (Crohn’s disease).

Non-beneficial ‘bad’ bacteria also occur naturally in our digestive tracts, and serious problems can develop if their growth goes unchecked. That’s why supplementing with beneficial bacteria is so useful. It not only aids digestion and increases production of certain vitamins and nutrients, but also controls the overgrowth of deleterious pathogens that can cause disease.

Most commercial probiotics contain various combinations of bifidus, lactobacillus acidophilus and/or bacillus coagulans strains of bacteria. These can be consumed for a period of several weeks each year to assure the retention of a proper balance of probiotics and to maintain an ideal state of internal men’s health.

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