With the changing scenario in India where lifestyle diseases are on the rise, almost every other person is becoming health conscious and looking for the best food choices. It is not surprising that the shelves in the supermarket are flooded with health foods and most people including my friends are constantly talking about good nutrition. They argue that fats are bad and too much salt is unhealthy. This new mind set has a lot to do with the Eat Right Movement that promises to improve health of the Indian population.
However, what we sometimes forget is that this food will only be useful if we get all the nutrients from it. Imagine a case where the roots of a tree are weak being unable to absorb water and minerals that are needed for the growth of the tree. In just the same way, all that we eat is digested and absorbed by the intestine- if the intestine is not healthy and strong to absorb the essential nutrients, no matter what we eat, we will never be able to get the goodness and benefit of that food.
It is surprising but bacteria play a very important role in deciding the health of the intestine. This is because we have about 1.5 kg bacteria in the intestine which help in digesting the food that we eat, absorbing essential nutrients from it and ensuring that we get the energy to remain healthy and active every day.
- These bacteria also help in absorption of important minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium, a deficiency of which leads to anaemia and weak bones.
- Not only that, they regulate the movement of the intestine and reduce the risk of constipation and diarrhoea.
Constipation for long periods of time results in accumulation of toxins in the intestine which is absorbed by the blood and could result in a host of health problems.
In fact, these bacteria are also important in deciding your state of mental well-being because reliable studies suggest that there is a vital connection between a healthy intestine and brain function. Interestingly, 2/3rd of the happy hormone (serotonin) is produced in the intestine by bacteria. Therefore, the health of the intestine depends on the good and bad bacteria that are present within it.
Hectic lifestyle, stress, sometimes overeating and consumption of antibiotics can reduce their numbers. People then tend to suffer from a weak digestive system and often complain of constipation, indigestion, and acidity. Not only that but since the intestine also contains about 70% of the body’s fighter cells which keep us protected, a decline in their levels could result in frequent colds, coughs, and allergies.
The best way to increase the good bacteria and keep the intestine healthy and strong is by consuming probiotic food as a part of the daily diet. Such foods have enough numbers of good bacteria (more than 1 billion) that the intestine needs to work properly.
However, they get passed out with the stool and therefore need to be consumed regularly for their health benefits. Probiotics hold the key not just for better digestive health and build immunity but have also shown benefits in reducing stress, overcoming the harmful effects of antibiotics, and reducing the risk of cancer.
Like they say, it takes two to tango- a well-balanced diet and a healthy intestine is the mantra for a long and happy life.