Bugs in our Body

Our bodies are teeming with good bacteria (bugs), which hang out mostly in the intestines but also in other places such as the eyes, mouth, and skin. Think of them as having two main jobs: to safeguard your health by crowding out the relatively few “bad” bacteria, and to digest food that your body can’t otherwise break down. You pick these “bugs” up from daily interactions with the world.

Bacteria research has been booming lately and here are some areas scientists are seeing “bugs” affect us.

Mood Management--There is a strong link between your gut flora and your mood. Scientists have found potentially striking links between anxiety and depression and gut bacteria. In one preliminary study, when anxious mice were given gut bacteria from mice who were not anxious, they experienced less anxiety as well as changes in their brain chemistry. In another small study, 40 people with depression were divided into two groups; at the end of eight weeks, the group given probiotics experienced a decrease in depression compared with the people who took a placebo. Research like this led Dr. David Perlmutter, in conjunction with Garden of Life, to produce a probiotic specifically for mood. This probiotic contains L. heleviticus R0052 and B. longum R0175 in the amounts clinically shown to support mood and relaxation.

Smooth Digestion--Intestinal conditions like irritable bowel (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as symptoms like bloating and cramps, have been linked with an imbalance in the gut microbiome--certain microbes produce a lot of gas and other chemicals linked to inflammation, which contributes to the symptoms of intestinal discomfort. 

Healthy Immune System--About 70 percent of our immune system lives in the gut--these bacteria guard against pathogens and inflammation. And there’s increasing evidence of links between your body’s bacteria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus. When there is a shift or imbalance in our gut bacteria--or even the presence of a certain strain, in some cases--the body thinks it’s being invaded which can trigger these disorders.

Weight Control--People with a rich variety of gut bacteria were less likely to be obese, according to a study in the journal Nature. In animal studies, some mice transplanted with the microbiome from obese humans promptly gained weight, while the mice who recieved a thin person’s microbiome stayed lean. It could be that the gut microbiome is able to influence weight through the bugs’ ability to extract energy from food as well as their interaction without appetite/satiety hormones and their role with the immune system. On the upside, exercise seems to enhance gut bacteria.

Heart Health--One study found that certain gut microbiome characteristics were associated with “good” HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. And the bacteria lactobacilli (found in fermented milk products) may help reduce cholesterol.

Source: Good Housekeeping, June 2019

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