Your intestinal tract is home to millions of micro-organisms that help you digest food and fight disease. In a perfect world with no pollutants, food additives or excessive antibiotic drugs, these organisms would be in balance and cause no problems at all. But because we don’t live in a perfect world, many of us find ourselves with symptoms of imbalance in the intestinal flora.
Symptoms of Imbalance
Although these symptoms may have other causes, they are often associated with an imbalance in the gut. Chronic constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome are the most common clues that your digestive tract needs to be balanced. Until recently, these problems were treated with pharmaceutical medicines that may have helped the symptoms but did nothing to remedy the cause. According to a study in Oxford Rheumatology in June 2008, incomplete digestion due to flora imbalance leads to leaky gut syndrome, which, in turn, can cause such complaints as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Holistic practitioners have been saying this for years, but the allopathic medical community is beginning to see the correlation and study it more in depth.
How to Get in Balance
At least 7,000 micro-organisms can be found in the human body, so it would be presumptuous to think that all complaints could be cured by balancing one or two of the most commonly known. But many problems can be improved by lowering your Candida albicans population and improving the numbers of Lactobacillus acidopholus, Lactobacillus bifidus and Bifodobacterium. Candida albicans is technically a type of yeast rather than a bacterium. It can get out of hand under certain circumstances such as overuse or improper use of antibiotics, overconsumption of processed foods and sugar and underconsumption of naturally fibrous foods such as vegetables and whole grains. One way to lower your yeast count is to take a course of caprylic acid supplements over a period of two weeks, during which you severely limit simple carbohydrates including sugar, bread and potatoes. Drink plenty of water and take a fiber supplement to assist your body in getting rid of the killed yeast. After this, increase your consumption of sugar-free yogurt, raw and lightly cooked vegetables and fresh fruit. You may also supplement for a while with a probiotic product such as Align, BioBeads or AccuFlora, which are all available over the counter. While we don’t live in a perfect world, your best bet for good health is to eat a more perfect diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and quality protein such as eggs, legumes and lower-fat meats. This, according to researcher Gail Cresci of the University of Georgia, is the best way to keep your intestinal flora in balance.
Theresa L Johnston is a Southern writer with expertise in alternative medicine, gardening and behavioral and women's health issues. She has been published at http://www.ehow.com, in "The Mostly ARTzine," and has edited several newsletters. She has written procedures manuals, call scripts, and youth group curriculum for her various employers over the last 10 years.