Thursday, March 5, 2009
Intestinal Bacteria, also known as Gut Flora are organisms
that live in our intestines and keep us healthy by
performing several important functions. The average human
has about thirty trillion microorganisms in their stomach,
with about five hundred different species. They perform as
much work as any of our major organs, but are never
mentioned as something we need in order to stay healthy.
Our feces are about sixty percent bacteria, which is why
doctors ask for a sample when we have an intestinal problem.
This is the most non-invasive manner in which tests could be
done to find the reason for the upset stomach.
When babies are born they have no bacteria in their system,
however their body quickly picks up bacteria from the mother
and surrounding environment, and within a few months their
body builds up the healthy bacteria. Babies born by
cesarean deliveries are likely to take a longer period of
time to build up these bacteria as compared to babies born
The bacteria in our stomach perform various different roles
such as fermenting, maintaining a healthy resistance level,
fighting the harmful bacteria, creating vitamins, and
helping us store fat. Firstly they break down
carbohydrates; as a result our body can absorb the nutrients
from it. With no bacteria in our intestines, we would not
have been able to break down a lot of food that we eat, and
therefore would need to eat more to remain healthy.
These bacteria also prevent the harmful bacteria from
growing in our digestive tract. Due to the competition in
the tract between several classes of bacteria for space, the
bad bacteria are not able to survive because the useful
bacteria do not permit them to take up any space. Humans
without any intestinal bacteria are much more likely to be
exposed to diseases as compared to those with normal levels.
These bacteria are also helpful in building up our immune
system so we don't fall sick. Due to a tolerance for healthy
bacteria that we develop in our childhood, the immune system
is proficient in battling the bad bacteria, therefore leaving
behind only the good bacteria. These bacteria are also
helpful in preventing all sorts of allergies and
inflammatory bowel disease.
However, these days the excessive usage of antibiotics and
other medicines is upsetting our digestive system, as the
medicines are not been able to distinguish between the
different types of bacteria in our body and wipe out both
the bad bacteria and the good. This is one of the main
causes of diarrhea and other illnesses of the bowel. While
we may not be consuming antibiotics with intent, a lot of
the dairy and meat we consume currently contains
antibiotics, which are given to the animals to prevent
illnesses. The use of probiotics is now increasing to help
the good bacteria thrive in the gut, since probiotics are
able to help the bacteria in their functions by fighting
harmful bacteria and boosting the immune system.
It is important to know that not all bacteria are bad for
us, and that our body has many millions of bacteria in it
that are actually helping it stay healthy.