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The Gut of the Matter

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Human performance starts with a healthy gut.

We're not talking about Iron Man, Cross Fit, Mudders or other types of extreme performances -- we're talking about physiological performance: waking up, feeling energized, and preventing disease.

This month's American Scientific reports that MS researchers are hoping to learn if the gut’s microbiome is a possible contributor to the body’s autoimmune attack on its nervous system.  While awaiting the results of this research, there are countless good reasons to pay attention to the health of your gut.

The gut is swarming with about 100 trillion bacteria, or flora, which outnumber human cells in our body 10 to 1.

"These bacteria and the compounds they excrete can have positive and negative effects on a person's health," says Dr. Stanley Hazen, chair of cellular and molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "To have a healthy gut, one must avoid eating foods that foster the growth of bacteria that create unhealthy metabolites."

"Get the right type in your gut and, depending on your condition, you may begin to see improvements in a matter of days or weeks," says Edmond Huang, a metabolic biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.


PROBIOTICS:  Most yogurt contains Bifidobacteria, which release chemicals that create an acidic environment, in which many harmful bacteria cannnot thrive. 

PREBIOTICS: Healthful flora is nourished with prebiotics, which are found in nondigestible carbohydrates: whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, chicory root.

FATTY FOODS: Studies done in mice have proven that dietary fats can damage the gut lining.  This damage then allows the undesirable chemicals that are leaked by certain bacteria to leak into the bloodstream and inflame the tissues surrounding it.

STRESS:  Stress can change the makeup of your gut flora.

Stress "alters the functioning of the immune system -- either by suppressing or enhancing its response to foreign invaders," says Ohio State University associate professor of oral biology Michael Bailey.

Time to get smart about your digestive tract, and give yourself a fighting chance in the face of chronic conditions, winter's colds and flus, and whatever else attempts to ail you.

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