Considering the intestinal tract is a major port of entry to the body, it makes sense that our intestines control a vast majority of our health. Food, water, medicines, germs, herbicides, pesticides, and anything else we chance to swallow is assessed, and either allowed entry or denied. That’s because about 70% of our immune function is directed from the gastrointestinal lining where specialized immune cells lie. If the immune cells deem something unhealthy for us, it can create stress on the intestinal tissue and result in inflammation. This inflammation can range from mild irritation to full-blown destruction of the intestinal lining as happens with ulcers and in celiac disease. This inflammation can impair our immune function and can even affect our moods and ability to deal with stress. That’s because the intestines make more serotonin than our brains. Hence, the gut is often referred to as the second brain. Inflammation in the intestines can be caused by disruption of gut serotonin, a food or food additives, bacteria, viruses, stress, or the myriad of chemicals we ingest as medication, supplements, herbicide, pesticide, food colorings, well, you get the picture. So to protect this vital system responsible for absorbing all the good stuff while keeping out the bad stuff, we need beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria or probiotics, protect the intestinal lining by creating a film or barrier, thereby helping to support our immune system and maintain good serotonin levels, too. Probiotics help reduce inflammation by neutralizing toxic substances, bad bacteria and viruses so our immune systems don’t bear the entire burden. Think of probiotics as your local law enforcement and border patrol and the immune cells as Navy Seals. You wouldn’t activate your Seal Team on a daily basis because they are too specialized and cost the system too much. You want local law enforcement,with the broader set of skills to handle the lower level security issues and save your Seal Team for big stuff like fighting cancer cells. By doing this you also spare the intestinal lining from using up too much serotonin. Probiotics seem to protect the intestinal storage of this vital hormone that allows us to feel happy and well. Research has shown that women given a probiotic were less effected by stressful stimuli. Children with autism and ADHD often have improvements in behavior when they are supported with probiotics. Simple ways to improve gut health is to get more fiber and reduce the amount of sugar you eat. Fiber helps keep our intestinal tract moving and is also food for beneficial bacteria. And as often happens in nature, the byproducts created by bacterial digestion of fiber, provides vital nutrients for our intestinal cells. Overindulging in sugar can overstimulate growth of bad bacteria and yeast that may then crowd out healthy bacteria. Sugars also feed cancer cells, making kicking the sugar habit one of the most powerful ways to fight cancer. It’s important to include good sources of healthy bacteria in your diet such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kim chee, or a probiotic supplement. Fermented foods have been prepared by having beneficial bacteria added to them and eating these foods can help maintain good levels of healthy bacteria in your intestines. However, a course of antibiotics, stress or gastrointestinal disease can make it more difficult to restore or maintain healthy amounts of the good bacteria. In this case a probiotic supplement may be the best choice. Your gut depends on you to provide what it needs to keep your body and brain healthy. So don’t delay in taking the first steps to better gut health. Both of your brains will thank you!