The human gut is estimated to contain 100 trillion bacteria cells, outnumbering our own cells 10 to 1. We are a fertile breeding ground for this microscopic species. The good news is, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They perform many functions in our body that we cannot complete on our own. They produce vitamins, block other “bad” bacteria from growing in our intestine, influence our brain, and may have many more roles according to recent research findings. It is becoming more and more apparent that they are important for our overall health. So, how do they help us? When can things go wrong? And finally, how do we maintain this mutually beneficial relationship with a probiotic?
How Do They Help us?
Everybody has a distinct and variable set of gut microbes, although a core set of microorganisms are common to all individuals. We start developing these bacterial colonies at birth. The composition can shift throughout life based on changes in age, diet, geographical location, intake of food supplements, and other environmental influences. The bacteria of our gut play a role in:
- Digestive health
- The immune system
- Regulation of body weight
- Production of vitamins such as vitamin b and k
- Mental Health
- And much more
As you can see, bacteria can affect our entire body. What can go wrong and change our gut biology then?
When Can Things Go Wrong?
To begin with, Americans consume a large amount of antibiotics. These antibiotics kill a lot of the bacteria in our body, including our friendly ones. This is troublesome because the helpful bacteria consume a lot of resources necessary for anything to reproduce in our body. They essentially hoard all the food for themselves. When they are killed, “bad” bacteria gain access to these resources and are able to gain a foothold in our digestive tract and can take over. This can lead to a number of poor health outcomes.
Our diet affects the bacterial environment as well. Certain foods, such as refined carbohydrates, provide a lot of nutrition for certain types of bacteria to reproduce. This can lead to a potential bowel overgrowth. In addition, many Americans lack fiber in their diet. Fiber is indigestible material that helps push food through your intestine. It is believed that each type of bacteria has a preferred type of resource to consume. Many helpful bacteria use fiber and if our diet is lacking – they may die off. This is especially true in the large intestine, which is one of the last parts of our digestive tract.
How Can A Probiotic Help?
How do we maintain this mutually beneficial relationship then? A good start is a healthy diet for bacteria. This diet includes healthy fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi, high fiber foods like organic vegetables, and other foods containing probiotics. Another option is to supplement with a probiotic, particularly if you just took antibacterial medications for any reason. Probiotic supplements will help promote the growth of healthy bacteria. They are typically a combination of beneficial bacteria known to promote well-being as well as the substrate necessary for them to flourish.
As more research comes out, the importance of bacteria within our body becomes more significant. Medicine is evolving and we are starting to analyze our bodies in their entirety, rather than focusing on its individual parts. It is a well-oiled machine when it has everything it needs. Bacteria have a role in providing resources for the body. How are your bacteria doing?