The Bacterial Balance

By Cynthia S. Rudert, MD, FACP

Through closer attention to your medications and diet, you can enhance your digestion and avoid common digestive complaints.yogurt

The Good

Ninety percent of the cells responsible for our immune system are found in the digestive system. Our immune system is enhanced by the presence of good bacteria, which should number in the trillions. When we’re in balance, our bodies contain approximately 10 times more bacteria than our own body cells.

The Bad

When these organisms are not in balance (dysbiosis), this may result in a commonly missed condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Bacterial overgrowth can result from antibiotic therapy and may also be found in people with lactose intolerance, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and decreased gastric acid production. Unfortunately, symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth such as gas, bloating and loose stools are easily confused with irritable bowel syndrome.

The Solution

Evaluate your medications. Many medications have gastrointestinal side effects like constipation to diarrhea or fecal incontinence, and virtually all antibiotics can negatively affect normal bacterial balance. In addition to taking stock of medicinal influences, people should examine their diets. Patients should avoid high fructose corn syrup, which can aggravate bacterial overgrowth. To restore that balance naturally, nothing beats yogurts and other fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles, all of which contain a variety of good bacteria.

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