We tend to be of the mindset that bacteria are bad and the world around us should be sterilized so as to wipe them out. The fact is, bacteria are an integral part of our lives and in many ways are responsible for life on Earth as we know it. Bacteria were among the first living organisms on the planet and populated our atmosphere with oxygen through the process of photosynthesis some 2.5 billion years ago paving the way for more life forms to evolve and follow. Collectively, bacteria make up the largest biomass on Earth—essentially every living thing has evolved in the shadow of bacteria.
We also tend to look at ourselves as being autonomous, a self-sufficient singular organism. What we are is a complex ecosystem host to all manner of microbes that inhabit our entire body including our skin, mouth, nostrils, eyes, genitals and especially our digestive tract. Among the inhabitants of this vast microbiome are bacteria cells. There is an estimated ten times as many bacteria cells in and on the body as there are living cells that make up the human body.
Our very existence depends on bacteria cells, and the one place where they are most important is in the digestive system, specifically the intestinal tract. The gut is populated with an estimated 3 to 4 pounds of microbes in an average healthy adult and among these microbes are bacteria both good and bad. It is the good bacteria that we call probiotics which literally means “for life”.
Probiotics play a vital role in healthy digestion. They work with enzymes and break down food into smaller and smaller parts for absorption and use by the body. They help keep harmful microbes such as yeast, viruses and bad bacteria in check before they can do damage. An estimated 70% of the bodies’ immune defenses are in the gut and probiotics play a critical role.
This delicate balance of good and bad in the gut translates directly to our overall health. When harmful microbes take over and good bacteria are displaced, obvious negatives can emerge such as poor digestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. When digestion is poor absorption of vital nutrients is also poor and the body is starved for what it needs to maintain good health. An unhealthy gut can also lead to disorders that many would view as seemingly unrelated such as diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, allergies, skin problems, heart disease, and mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s and mood swings. Just about any health condition from acne to body odor and bad breath can be linked to digestive health and probiotics. And now there is evidence coming from every direction that demonstrates that a digestive system that is out of balance and overrun with bad bacteria and microbes can lead directly to unhealthy yeast, weight gain, and obesity.
What upsets this delicate balance in the gut is anything that harms the good bacteria and or feeds the bad bacteria and harmful microbes such as yeast. This includes things like chemicals from any source including food such as preservatives, herbicides and pesticides, processed food, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, physical and emotional stress, and medications– especially antibiotics.
What benefits healthy levels of good bacteria in the gut is a good diet rich in raw foods loaded with nutrients, enzymes and probiotics. Foods that naturally contain high levels of probiotics are cultured and fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, cheese, and sauerkraut to name a few. Additionally, foods that contain insoluble fiber are termed prebiotics and act as food for probiotics to help them flourish in the gut. Probiotics can also be obtained easily and conveniently through supplementation of which can contain billions of live probiotic cultures of many different types. Different probiotic strains can help with different aspects of digestion and good health. There are also convenient supplements that help eliminate harmful microbes in the gut including yeast.
It’s been said good health or bad health is taken in through the mouth. What we take into the digestive tract and of course how well the digestive system uses the nutrients will determine our overall health including: energy levels, immune health, mental health, and how we age. Populating the gut with healthy bacteria and taking measures to maintain their levels can bring about good digestion and good health. The more the Human body lives in concert with the microbial world the better the health.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains