A war is raging.
An entire world is under attack. In a classic battle,
billions of inhabitants, along with the environment they
live in, may be headed for destruction. This is not a
page out of a science fiction novel. This is real for
the world within your intestinal tract. Your intestinal
tract is truly teeming with life. Somewhere between 100
to 400 different species of microscopic bacteria live
in the intestine. With a population numbering as high
as 100 trillion, these bacteria can be 100 times more
plentiful than all the body's other cells combined. But
like any world, there are both helpful and harmful residents
in this bacterial population. The harmful tenaciously
fight for supremacy. They try to overpower the helpful
and then try to move on to conquer new worlds.
bacteria stand in their way. They want to keep the harmful
bacteria in check, to create a balance that is tipped
in favor of good health. By creating this balance, they
serve as a force in favor of the health of the intestinal
world and the health of the whole body.
It is obvious,
then, that we need to support our helpful bacteria in
their battle, but we seem to be doing the opposite! Wholesale
destruction of our healthy bacteria may be occurring largely
as a result of habits we have developed. This may create
a serious challenge to our intestinal and overall health.
But there is hope; it is easy to change these habits.
of Antibiotics: One habit that is sometimes lethal to
the bacterial world inside us is the overuse of antibiotics.
With the discovery and implementation of antibiotics,
the world believed that infectious disease would be conquered.
But over-prescribing of antibiotics has become common.
Every year over 35 million pounds of antibiotics are consumed
by humans, livestock, and poultry in the U.S. Humans may
also unknowingly consume second-hand antibiotics hidden
in meat, poultry, and dairy products.
effect has not only been destruction of the healthful
bacteria in the human intestinal tract, but also the establishment
of strains of harmful bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Over the last 30 years, strains of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria have turned up for almost every bacterial disease.
The seriousness of the problem is reflected in the fact
that, in 1992, 13,300 hospital patients died of infections
that resisted every drug doctors tried. In 1993 the number
grew to 70,000 whom died as a result of hospital-acquired,
one representative from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta, "It is probably the number
one public health issue." According to scientific
authorities, when helpful bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics,
harmful bacteria may proliferate in the intestines. The
balance of the bacterial population may then be tipped
in favor of the bad bacteria, resulting in production
of a large variety of toxins in the intestine. This may
also contribute to virulent infections that may not be
contained in the intestine and, as a result, may infect
other areas of the body. Damage to the Intestinal Wall
In addition to preserving and promoting a healthy bacterial
population in the intestine, it is also important to maintain
the health of the structure bacteria live on - the intestinal
that goal may be practices that have been shown to induce
unfavorable effects on the intestinal wall. These include:
alcohol abuse; consumption of raw eggs, raw oysters, and
other foods that may produce bacterial infections in the
intestines and diarrhea; consumption of aspirin and other
pain killers that can damage the intestinal lining; use
of broad spectrum antibiotics which may result in diarrhea
or yeast infections; and bad diets that may lead to poor
Diet and Intestinal Health: The average American diet
consists of highly refined and processed food and is generally
not conducive to achieving optimal intestinal health.
It provides an excess of simple sugars and fats and is
deficient in nutritionally adequate, whole, unprocessed
foods and fiber. Consumption of this diet is associated
with less frequent bowel movements and a number of forms
of chronic intestinal ill health. It not only might work
to move the intestinal balance toward the overgrowth of
unhealthful bacteria and the proliferation of yeast or
fungal organisms, it may also lead to deterioration of
the intestinal wall.
Intestinal Health: People have long supported intestinal
health by consuming natural probiotics in the form of
cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir, and fermented
milks. The term "probiotic" refers to organisms
and/or supportive substances that beneficially affect
the balance of the intestinal bacteria. Classic among
the probiotics are Bifidobacteria infantis and Lactobacillus
acidophilus. Their supportive properties may include the
production of organic acids that inhibit the growth of
certain undesirable bacteria, the promotion of normal
gastrointestinal function, and the promotion of a healthy
intestinal wall, to mention a few. Dietary fiber is also
very important. Animal studies have shown that adding
fiber to a liquid diet reduces the amount of bacteria
crossing the intestinal wall and getting into circulation
by almost 90%. Complex carbohydrates, known as fructooligosaccharides(FOS),
are fiber-like in that humans do not digest them but they
serve as food for healthful bacteria. In a study conducted
with 23 elderly patients, it increased the quantity of
friendly bifidobacteria in their system by 1,000%. Certain
bioactive proteins are another class of supportive substances
that qualify as probiotics. They are produced in the body
naturally, or can be obtained from various foods. They
help maintain the balance of healthful intestinal bacteria
by inhibiting those that are unhealthful. Lactoferrin,
for example, is an iron-binding protein that prevents
the unhealthful bacteria from getting the iron it needs
to live. Lactoperoxidase is a protein enzyme that, in
various ways, damages unhealthful bacteria. Certain immunoglobulins
derived from whey protein help prevent unhealthful bacteria
from attaching to the intestinal wall, making them easy
to eliminate. Additionally, it is important to make sure
that a good diet includes pure water. Use of tap water
derived from a municipal source contains chlorine which
may destroy healthful bacteria in the intestine.
Recommendations for Optimal Intestinal Health
Avoid the use of broad spectrum antibiotics and NSAIDs
as much as possible.
chlorinated water, and refined sugar and fat rich foods.
Eat a diet
rich in whole, unprocessed, nutritionally adequate foods
and fiber. Also consider adding fiber-like fructooligosaccharides
(FOS) to your diet.
your diet with high quality, healthful bacterial products
such as Bifidobacteria infantis and the NCFM strain of
consume a diet rich in, and/or supplemented with, probiotic
proteins such as lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin, and globulin
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MET131 Rev. 6/99 ©1997 Advanced Nutrition Publications,
Inc., revised 1999