Bacteria Friend or Foe?
If I were to tell you that bacteria outnumber the cells in our body 10 to 1 and that we are therefore more bacteria than we are human, I’m sure most of you would be rather surprised, possibly even concerned. So it’s time we all got know and love our microbiome’s and essentially ourselves.
Your microbiome refers to the microbes that live in and on the human body, it is made up of more than just bacteria. It consists of bacteria, worms, fungi, protazoa, parasites, viruses etc. They help to train the immune system to recognise friend versus foe and play an important role with regards to maintaining our immmune systems, aiding the digestion of our food, and acting as a first line of defence against pathogens (bad bacteria).
This is how I’ve explained it to my son, who has a great understanding and relationship with his microbiome:
In our tummy we have lots of tiny little things called bacteria, some are bad and make us sick, and the others are good and protect us from getting sick, making us happy and healthy. We need to feed our good bacteria who like to eat prebiotic power foods such as: Asparagus, Almonds, Bananas, Leeks, Onions, Greens, Legumes etc.
When we eat things like too many grains, sugars, and processed foods then we are feeding and making the bad bacteria stronger and they fight with our good bacteria often making us feel slow, tired, grumpy and sick.
We now have a standing joke/conversation in our house that when he eats healthy food options his good bacteria are happy and having a party in his tummy. Then we like to send in reinforcements and friends too, so we eat and drink things like fermented vegetables (I often have to hide these) Kombucha and Kefir (in smoothies) which add more probiotics; the good bacteria buddies, to his diet and into his gut.
In today’s mordern society we have managed to sterilize and pasteurize or irriaditate out any beneficial bacteria that may have been naturally available to us. Instead we seem to feed the bad bacteria with an assortment of yeasts, grains, sugars and other processed foods. On top of this all, we love to sanitize our children from the day they are born. We have become afraid of bacteria, good or bad, and we don’t like the idea that it may come in contact with our little ones. Raising them in such a sterile environment doesnt allow for their digestive systems to develop properly, let alone their immune system. It’s also just no fun!
Good bacteria plays an important role in the proper digestion of food, and helps to absorb nutrients. It plays a large role in our over all health, and some studies have even linked our gut health to things such as Depression, Pakinsons and other brain diseases. However poor gut health can also be linked to auto-immune diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, Celiac Disease and type 2 diabetes.
How can we avoid depleting our good bacteria buddies?
We want to keep that party going, so what can we do to avoid depleting the beneficial bacteria:
- Avoid the use of antibacterial soaps and harsh cleaning chemicals or products.
- Eating processed and refined foods
- Eating sugars and excess starches
- Avoid any sources of stress on the body even lack of sleep.
- And especially antibiotics (try using natural alternatives instead)
Keep the party going and invite more guests!
There are some great and simple things we can do to increase and take care of our beneficial bacteria, here are a few:
- Try not to eat Sugars, grains, vegetable oils and excess starches – these foods will deplete your beneficial bacteria and lower your immunity.
- Eat plenty vegetables, proteins and healthy fats– these will help to support your immune system and feed the beneficial bacteria.
- Consume fermented foods and drinks– things such as kimchi, fermented vegetables, natural yoghurts, kombucha, kefirs, sauerkraut etc These all provide more probiotics (guests to the party)
- Get dirty- gardening! Its a great way to get probiotics in as well as some Vitamin D.
- Use Natural soaps and warm water– no need for these anti-bacterial soaps.
It’s time we made friends with these living microbiomes and learned to live symbiotically, it will only benefit us, and gosh it would make life easier. So let your children make their mud cakes, and run around barefoot getting their hands and feet dirty, or crawl across the floor, in fact, why not join them!
Share your thoughts below, If you have any questions, or want to get in touch please do. I love hearing from you!
Love and Health,
“Mama Wolf” x
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For more great information have a listen to the Ultimate Health Podcast, where they chat to Dr Robynne Chutkan with regards to the microbiome and bacteria.