Children’s intestinal tracts are being studied as well to understand how they are affected by the types of bacteria they harbor. Breast milk is considered to be the healthiest nutrition for infants, but now scientists have found a particular bacterium in it called Bifidobacterium infantis which can help protect the stomach lining against infections and inflammation.
Scientists believe that the right food can help us develop beneficial bacteria, and eating prebiotics and probiotics may be key. Prebiotics are foods that nurture the development of the good bacteria in our intestine and include whole grains, plants, fruits and vegetables. Probiotics are specific enzymes in foods that encourage good bacterial growth. These can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut.
Supplement companies have figured out a way to package probiotics in capsule form which can be easier to take, but according to Jeffrey Morrison, M.D., of the Morrison Center, an integrative treatment center in New York City, although the supplements may be much higher in concentration of probiotic cultures, they are usually not living. Whole food sources are more likely to have living cultures, which are considered more beneficial to the digestive tract.
Stephen O’Keefe, M.D., Director of the Small Intestinal Rehabilitation & Transplant Center at the University of Pittsburgh, says the problem with the current Western diet is that all the processed food we eat feeds only the upper gastrointestinal tract (GI), not the lower. Our health depends on the large intestine (which is in the lower GI) working well. He advises eating more fresh plant foods like bananas, oats, beans, onions, nuts, and avocadoes.
If we can educate ourselves about the benefits of bacteria and make some thoughtful food choices, we can help fight off chronic infections, leaving acute illnesses to be treated with antibiotics. Anyone for some food as medicine?
To Your Health!