How to Strengthen the Intestinal Flora
We have all heard at some point about intestinal flora, but what is it exactly? Intestinal flora are a kind of bacteria which are positive for the health of our digestive system and which help prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria that can cause infections. This set of micro-organisms includes a total 2000 species, from which only 100 can be harmful.
A healthy intestinal flora enables the proper metabolism of carbohydrates and controls the growth of cells in the colon, critical to controlling cancer. However, this group of bacteria is not always in optimal condition and some practices may result in their numbers decreasing. Therefore, here at OneHowTo we give you the keys to know how to strengthen the intestinal flora.
What is the function of intestinal flora?
The intestinal flora begins to form when a newborn baby first drinks breast milk. Before this there is no trace of micro-organisms; bacterial flora is non-existent, which poses a risk to the newborn baby. When there is no intestinal flora the body is unable to produce vitamin K, essential to provide proper bone density and good blood clotting.
The main functions of the intestinal flora are:
- Metabolizing carbohydrates: Some of the bacteria in intestinal flora contain the enzymes necessary to metabolize carbohydrates. This process results in the production of gas and bloating.
- A correct intestinal flora can help avoid some types of allergies.
- Alterations to the intestinal flora can cause the gluten intolerance which results in celiac disease due to a higher concentration of harmful bacteria.
- Cholesterol can also lead to alterations in the intestinal flora.
- A healthy intestinal flora stimulates the creation of antibodies which help eliminate cells that are prone to become cancerous, thereby also contributing to prevent colon cancer.
To strengthen the intestinal flora, a varied and balanced diet is essential. Some foods can also stimulate the proliferation of certain beneficial bacteria. These are the symptoms that may warn of an intestinal infection such as amoebiasis and which can be of use to detect and combat the problem in time.
How to strengthen the intestinal flora with prebiotics
Prebiotics are substances present in some foods that can help strengthen the intestinal flora, stimulating the growth of bacteria in the gut. These substances are rich in fiber and once ingested they start to ferment, contributing to generating flora. Non digestible carbohydrates, together with fiber, fructooligosaccharides - a kind of fructan molecule - and insulin are prebiotics that strengthen the intestinal flora.
- Asparagus has a great amount of fructooligosaccharides, a soluble fiber for the body.
- Onion has positive effects for maintaining the health of the intestinal flora and can be eaten both raw and cooked.
- Garlic is rich in insulin, a substance that has positive effects to stimulate the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.
- Artichoke is another insulin-rich food that helps generate beneficial bacteria.
- Wheat flour, both whole grain and cooked, is a good choice to provide beneficial prebiotic fiber to the intestinal flora.
- Vegetables is general are rich in raffinose and stachyose that have prebiotic actions.
How to strengthen the intestinal flora with probiotics
Another way to strengthen the intestinal flora and ensure its proper functioning is to consume probiotics. Probiotics are micro-organisms that improve bowel function and strengthen the immune system.
The only food rich in probiotics which we can use to strengthen the intestinal flora is yogurt. This food contains live micro-organisms that form during its processing. Therefore, the most recommended foods if you are looking to improve the intestinal flora are yogurt, liquid yogurt and fermented milk. If necessary, replace milk with these foods.
Bifidus yogurt has the advantage of being rich in lactic acid bacteria, a type of bacteria beneficial for the health of the intestinal flora. Likewise, kefir is another dairy product that not only has healthy bacteria but also contains yeast, another beneficial micro-organism. If you are allergic to dairy you can resort to other foods that strengthen the intestinal flora such as soy yogurt or miso soup.
The main types of probiotic bacteria are:
- Bifidobacterium: This is a group of bacteria that lives in the intestine and is also found in fermented foods such as yogurt and cheese.
- Lactobacillus: These can be ingested through foods such as yogurt and dietary supplements.
Other foods that strengthen the intestinal flora
There are other options to strengthen our intestinal flora through food:
- Healthy fats. Olive oil and nuts, for instance, are high in calories but also rich in omega-3, which favors the state of the intestine's walls and mucus. The consumption of these products should be moderate since, despite their positive effects on the body, an excess can be harmful.
- Papaya, pineapple and figs. These foods are excellent to eliminate harmful gut bacteria.
- Dried fruit. They are very rich in fiber that, as we have already explained, plays an important role in the health of the intestinal flora. Examples of these foods are raisins and prunes.
What harms the health of the intestinal flora?
In addition to incorporating foods that help us take care of the health of the intestinal flora we must also be aware of those factors that can hurt bacterial balance:
- Antibiotics. These are one of the worst enemies of the intestinal flora because they alter and hinder metabolic processes while eliminating bacteria, indifferent to whether it is beneficial or harmful. Therefore, the intestine becomes weaker in the face of external aggression.
- Processed, fatty, fried foods. This type of foods irritate the lining of the intestine's walls and kill beneficial bacteria to stimulate the production of gastric juices.
- Coffee. The laxative effects of coffee prevent the bacterial flora from being properly formed.
- Stress. It produces changes in the digestive system due to a decreased absorption of nutrients, reduced blood flow to the digestive system and a decrease in the enzymes necessary to metabolize carbohydrates.
- Tobacco. Some studies have shown that tobacco has negative effects on intestinal flora bacteria, in addition to the dangers which are already known.
- Alcohol. Regular consumption of alcohol can stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria and increase intestinal permeability by altering the intestinal barrier.
This is how to strengthen the intestinal flora: Follow a healthy, balanced diet - with lots of yogurt - and avoid stress and bad habits as much as you can.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
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