It is a fact that the role and importance of bacteria in human health has been grossly underestimated and generally misunderstood by members of the public. This brief overview will help to provide a vital understanding of bacteria in its relationship to the human body, and how the handling of bacteria alone opens the door to a new era in human health.
The gastro-intestinal tract’s healthy function relies on the presence of beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria aid in digestion, correct pH balance (acidity), the processing of nutrients and the prevention of the build up of harmful bacteria.
The bacteria in your bowels outnumber the cells in your body by a factor of ten to one. This gut flora has incredible power over the immune system, meaning that the health of the body is largely tied into the health of the gut. This becomes understandable when one looks at the fact that there are over 100 trillion bacteria – about 2 kilograms worth – that line the intestinal tract.
Beneficial bacteria (as well as pathogens) are almost completely killed off with the use of antibiotics, which many GPs tend to give out like candy to patients who come with any kind of bacterial or viral illness. Repeated use of antibiotics can virtually eradicate the good bacteria in the gut, which have to build up from scratch again each time a course of antibiotics is taken, allowing bad bacteria and harmful yeasts to take a foot hold in the GI tract and multiply at a high rate.
Beneficial bacteria help to consume available food sources in the intestine and thus deprive harmful bacteria of their normal food sources. Approximately 70% of the body’s immune system capability derives from the beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. The average adult body contains approximately 2.5 kg of bacteria, both good and bad. It is estimated that the large intestine (colon) alone should contain approximately 1.5kg of beneficial bacteria. There are approximately 400+ varieties of bacteria in the digestive tract and take many years to build up through a healthy diet. This is why eradicating all of one’s probiotic bacteria by taking antibiotics and simply taking a probiotic supplement afterwards (containing perhaps 2 or 3 strains of probiotic bacteria) is not really going to build up that same level of diversity of good bacteria as would occur naturally with a good diet.
Beneficial bacteria assist with the following: • Help to inhibit potential pathogenic bacteria. • Help to prevent diarrhoea caused by rota virus or salmonella. • Help to reduce the proliferation of Candida. • Assist in increased defecation and help to reduce constipation. • Help in digestion by altering the pH and improving the uptake of minerals, especially calcium. • Help to digest lactose for the lactose-intolerant persons. • Involved in the production of vitamins, for example, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 B12, A, D and K, and essential fatty acids. • Assist in protein digestion. • Help to clean the digestive tract. • Produce natural antibiotics and anti-fungals such as hydrogen peroxide.
The vast majority of active probiotic bacterial cells are destroyed by the stomach before they reach the small and large intestine. Therefore, the exact number taken could in some ways be considered irrelevant or not so critical. The main purpose of taking probiotics is to provide viable cells of good bacteria which can seed or multiply in the small and large intestine. It is not, factually, to physically populate the colon with good bacteria from just the probiotic bacteria that survive and reach the colon. This would be a mammoth task given the small number that actually reach the colon and the several kilos of good bacteria actually required there. Providing a regular supply of seeding bacteria to the colon, and also ensuring optimal conditions (and food) for the good bacteria and adverse conditions (and a lack of food) for the bad bacteria, is the main goal to achieving and maintaining a healthy floral gut balance.