Your digestive system has more going on inside of it than you may realize. There are literally trillions of bacteria that live mostly in the lower parts of your intestines—the colon. These bacteria establish a “city” of sorts with many different “neighborhoods” of friendly (healthy) and non–friendly (harmful) bacteria types. Your immune health depends upon the friendly bacteria out–numbering the non– friendly neighbors. Scientists view the intestinal track as the first line of defense against illness, so maintaining ample friendly bacteria ultimately keeps you well. Stress, poor sleep, sporadic eating or poor dietary choices can each disrupt the balance of friendly versus non–friendly bacteria. Take these simple steps to promote healthy bacteria in your intestines and a strong immune system.
- Include food with probiotics. These are live healthy bacteria that exist naturally in foods such as yogurt and kefir, and in other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage dish) and Kambuch, a fermented beverage (containing yeast and bacteria) made with sweetened black tea (or other types of tea).
- Read package labels for healthy bacteria strains. Check labels for bacteria names that include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, which are healthy bacteria strains that help keep your digestive health optimal.
- Aim for a daily serving of probiotic. A cup of yogurt or kefir also supplies about 30 percent of your daily calcium needs along with quality protein.
- Include prebiotic food sources. Bacteria need food for their survival too! They love to dine on indigestible carbohydrates such as fructooligosaccharides found in onions, garlic, bananas, artichoke and other vegetables. (Probiotic supplement capsules and pills may be a good option for those who cannot include foods mentioned here—consult your physician with questions.)