When we talk about bacteria, people often automatically associate their existence and activity with negative effects on the body. However, there is a set of bacteria that, far from being harmful, is essential to maintain good health: they are the bacteria that make up our intestinal flora .
What is the intestinal flora?
As part of the normal microbiota , these microorganisms that inhabit our intestines maintain a symbiotic relationship of a commensal type with our body, providing us with a multitude of important benefits related to our nutrition .
It is estimated that the human being contains around 2000 species of bacteria, of which only about 100 can harm us, while many of them favor and help us.
In the animal kingdom, in fact, there are certain species that depend strongly on their intestinal flora: in the case of cows, unable to digest in any other way the cellulose of the grains and forages with which they feed, or termites, at the time to process the wood with which they sustain their food.
Although in humans there is not such a radical dependence as in the case of cows or termites, the role that intestinal flora exerts on our health is very important:
- Fundamental for the correct functioning of our immune system : the bacteria of our flora show the T lymphocytes of our body the useful and useless strains for the organism, thus teaching our immune system to recognize the invading antigens, so that they can better protect us. In front of them.
- Likewise, its enzymes are useful for the digestion of carbohydrates , oligosaccharides and other sugars that our body is not able to absorb during the metabolic process.
- In addition, as long as our intestinal flora is in good health, some of its bacteria can prevent certain diseases, such as an enlarged colon or irritable bowel.
In short: maintaining a good intestinal flora will increase resistance to bacterial and viral infections, help the body when digesting food, allow better absorption of its nutrients, as well as prevent the proliferation of causative bacteria. of intestinal transit disorders.
All this speaks of the extraordinary importance of keeping our intestinal flora well cared for, in order to maintain full and strong health. However, certain circumstances and everyday situations can damage our intestinal flora, such as prolonged use of antibiotics . This fact can have very negative effects on our body, so it is advisable to be alert and not allow the persistent deterioration of our bacterial ecosystem.
Symptoms of a damaged intestinal flora
When the intestinal flora is damaged or weakened, it will not always manifest itself with the immediate appearance of diseases. However, some characteristic symptoms tend to appear that indicate its poor condition. Knowing these signals becomes essential, because we will be warned of the imbalance, and in this way we can take measures as soon as possible to prevent the situation from degenerating into greater evils in the medium or long term.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is very likely that the natural functioning of the bacterial ecosystem is suffering:
- Variation in the usual behavior of the intestine when going to the bathroom: if the intestinal flora is damaged, this usually brings with it problems with constipation , so it will be more difficult for us to go to the bathroom than before. Diarrhea may also appear, periodically alternating with the aforementioned constipation.
- Alterations in the stool: while there are changes in habits when defecating, it is also very common to experience changes in the stool itself. For example, it is very common for stools to acquire a more unpleasant odor than before.
- Intestinal and digestive problems: abdominal bloating, gas and flatulence are often typical side effects of an altered intestinal flora.
- Intestinal colic: these intestinal problems usually produce colic that causes pain and discomfort in the abdominal area.
- Higher incidence of infections: since the intestinal flora plays a fundamental role in strengthening the immune system, any imbalance can weaken our defenses, increasing the chances of suffering infections of various kinds.
How to regain the health of your intestinal flora
There is a very close correlation between intestinal flora and nutrition : correct nutrition protects and strengthens flora microorganisms, while this, in turn, will help the body to be well nourished. In this way, the best method to be able to regenerate the damaged intestinal flora is to maintain a balanced and varied diet , paying special attention to three types of food: vegetables, fruits and fermented foods.
Fruits and vegetables in general, especially pears, apples, kiwis, figs and strawberries; as well as vegetables, legumes and cereals, are foods rich in fiber , especially indicated to combat constipation and regulate intestinal transit. As a general rule, it is advisable to consume between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day; With 100 grams of vegetables, 50 grams of legumes, 50 grams of bread and two pieces of fruit, we will comfortably comply with this recommendation.
Fermented foods, on the other hand, represent an extraordinary help when it comes to regenerating intestinal bacteria, and they treasure a series of positive characteristics that will soon be reflected in the body:
- They are more nutritious and digestible foods than the rest, since the bacteria they contain do a good part of digestion.
- Rich in vitamin B and K2, keys to maintaining coronary health and strong bones.
- They help the immune system.
- They increase bacterial diversity.
Within fermented foods, it is necessary to highlight the great importance of probiotics in promoting good intestinal flora.
Probiotics and how they can help the intestinal flora
Probiotic foods are those that contain a series of living microorganisms that help, among other things, the digestive organs work. These microorganisms are intestinal bacteria that stimulate enzymes and digestive juices, helping to replace the “good bacteria” in our flora, and in turn collaborating in the prevention of different diseases and infections that can negatively affect our health.
As for the most recommended probiotic foods to properly care for and regenerate the intestinal flora, the following dishes stand out above all:
- Sauerkraut: it is obtained by fermenting cabbage or white cabbage. This food has a high content of vitamin C , and is a natural source of isothiocyanate, with high anticancer properties. Although its probiotic content surpasses almost any supplement, the commercial options that we will find in supermarkets usually use vinegar for its conservation, limiting many of its extraordinary benefits, so it will be preferable to obtain sauerkraut at home.
- Kimchi: one of the star dishes of Korean cuisine, obtained by fermenting Chinese cabbage. The ginger and garlic, used in its recipe, increase the properties of this wonderful dish. The benefits that kimchi offers are related to colorectal health, as well as splendid antioxidant and anticancer properties.
- Vegetables and pickled vegetables: olives, carrots, radishes, but especially pickles are foods rich in probiotics. It is recommended to obtain them at home, since commercial options impoverish their probiotic content, and in this way, their beneficial potential for the intestinal flora.
- Yogurt: one of the most widespread foods today. Different nutrients such as biotin, vitamin B12 and linoleic acid are obtained from the fermentation of milk, as well as the proliferation of certain amino acids. The negative part is the same that we have already been commenting on: many of the yogurts found in the supermarket are going to be of very low quality. Its composition must be carefully observed before choosing: if it has more than three ingredients, a bad sign.
- Kefir : powerful probiotic that comes from the mountains of the Caucasus. Also known as ‘Bulgarian yogurt’, its bacterial diversity is even higher than that of yogurt. Among its virtues we find anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Useful to regenerate the intestinal flora and to reduce intestinal problems such as colitis, as well as to reverse lactose intolerance.
In cereals and legumes
- Miso and tempeh: they are two foods of Asian origin, the result of the fermentation of soybeans, a problematic food in its natural state, but quite interesting once it has been fermented. Taken in moderation, miso and tempeh provide certain benefits and probiotic properties, while being a great source of protein.
As we have seen, keeping our bacterial ecosystem in good condition will have a direct impact on our state of health, strengthening our defenses and helping us digest certain foods that we could not otherwise metabolize. Taking into account the different symptoms that warn us that our intestinal flora could be damaged, allows us to stay alert and act quickly, so that our body is strong and healthy at all times.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.