With 80% of your immune system located in your gut, having balanced intestinal flora is a major factor in defending your body against disease. Balanced gastrointestinal (GI) flora is critical to the functioning of the immune system, synthesis of nutrients, and detoxification. Balanced GI flora is also necessary for regular and normal bowel movements.
Flora imbalances can be caused by poor diet, illness, use of antibiotics, and stress. Symptoms can include persistent gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. To maintain or rebalance GI flora, consider adding probiotics to your diet.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms naturally found in your GI tract. The most common probiotic bacteria come from two groups, lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, although many other types of bacteria are also classified as probiotics. Scientific evidence shows these probiotics
Two ways to boost healthy GI flora are to take a probiotic supplement or add probiotic-containing foods to your diet. Probiotic supplements come in liquid and capsule forms and many are sold refrigerated. Check with your doctor or holistic health practitioner to be sure you select a product that meets your personal health needs. Beware when the product label states how much live probiotic culture it contains "at the time of manufacture", as it will contain significantly less by the time you purchase it. Also, check to see if the supplement contains a prebiotic such as fructooligosaccharides, which are food for your own flora that keep them healthy and strong. It is important to follow the storage instructions for your supplement—failure to do so could kill off the live, healthy bacteria it contains.
Probiotic-boosting foods include fermented foods and cultured dairy products. Be sure the food labels state "fermented" or, for dairy, "live and active bacterial cultures."