Did you know there are more than 400 bacterial species that inhabit the large intestine? This may sound alarming but these species are often referred to as -good- bacteria. More often than not we think of all bacteria as being -bad- and the word bacteria usually is associated with -infection-
Good Bacteria ? They work hard in the digestive tract to promote digestion and better absorption of nutrients from your food. They can even help control the more harmful bacteria that live there too.
Bad Bacteria ? The -bad- bacteria are known as pathogens. They produce chemicals that can be toxic to your body and which are often responsible for the more common digestive problems including constipation, diarrhea, inflammation and chronic conditions like IBS.
What is Bacteria Anyway?
We all know the term -antibiotic- but few can define -pro biotic.- The term antibiotic means something that destroys life while pro biotic is something that preserves living organisms. Bacteria are very tiny living micro-organisms that have been around since the beginning of time. Bacteria are so tiny you would be able to to put one billion of them on the head of a pin and not know they were there. Bacteria are everywhere, in the air, in the water, and in great abundance on what we eat. Don't be shocked, this is the way it is meant to be. Bacteria are like other groups of animals in the animal kingdom. For example if we compared them to lets say -Dogs- there are many different groups (domestic dogs, wolves,foxes) and several strains or breeds of each (IE.:terriers, spaniels,retrievers) They are all dogs but each is different and distinct. Thus it is with bacteria. There are many different families with many differing individuals within each family. For instance , lactobacilli are one genus:acidiphilus and bulgaricus are species of that genus.
Good bacteria live happily within our bodies by the trillions , especially within our gastrointestinal tract. They perpetuate in areas that are warm, moist, and most importantly have a hospitable pH level.
The ideal pH environment is slightly acidic, somewhere between pH 3 and pH 6. Acidity is vital for two reasons: an acidic environment supports good bacteria and actively discourages bad ones.
It is crucial that we maintain good bacteria in our bodies for our well being. If properly nurtured and supported good bacteria work tirelessly to create a -Utopia- within each of us.
Good bacteria are responsible for the production of various vital nutrients, including vitamins B2 and B12, biotin, folic acid, vitamin K, lactase, enzymes, and hydrogen peroxide. They are busy little guys who ask nothing more then to have a warm place to call home.
Good bacteria are very active in the colon, where most of the manufacturing processes take place. In this part of the digestive system toxins are dealt with, and elimination of waste is facilitated. In a healthy colon, good bacteria number about, 85 percent and 15 percent putrefactive coliform bacteria ( these are bad bacteria) If this ratio is maintained then the colon is healthy. In today's fast paced lifestyle and junk food diets we are lucky if we have a 50:50 ratio.
Indeed, some scientists believe the loss of friendly organisms in recent years could be contributing to rising rates of asthma, acid reflux, obesity, and some cancers.
Antibiotics Use or Abuse?
With the development of antibiotics many more people survived infections. These lifesaving antibiotics were hailed as the answer to all health problems. However what these discoverers of antibiotics did not realize at the time, this was a double edged sword that could cause irreparable damage as well as save lives. The intent of antibiotics was to be used discriminately and sparingly so as not to damage the delicate balance of our internal ecosystem. What they realized but never , thought at the time would happen was that some strains of strong , pathogenic bacteria would survive the antibiotic therapy. These survivors would adapt and become resistant to antibiotic treatment.
Now, we must suffer the consequences of widespread use of antibiotics,or do we have to? Part of the decline of good bacteria can be attributed to use of antibiotics, especially in children. But a recent study found huge differences in bacteria present on the skin of newborns delivered by C-section vs. those delivered vaginally, possibly explaining why C-section babies are more vulnerable to infections. The infants were swabbed and tested moments after birth, yet those delivered by C-section were already colonized. While the vaginally delivered were not, because of the presence of good bacteria in the birth canal.
Obesity may also have a bacterial connection. Obese people had a different mix of gut bacteria than thin people. H. pylori may play an important role in the stomach. It influences two key appetite hormones: ghrelin, which makes us want to eat, and leptin, which makes us want to stop eating.
H. pylori is being eradicated by antibiotics prescribed for childhood ear infections, sore throats, and a host of other conditions. That might mean ulcers and stomach cancers become much less common, but people without H. pylori are more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal reflux and cancer of the esophagus. They also appear to get more asthma in childhood.
An H. pylori-positive stomach is different from an H. pylori-negative one. There's a cost to having it, but there's also a cost to not having it. Over the last century, asthma has risen at roughly the same rate that H. pylori has fallen, although a mechanism linking the two has yet to be discovered. The facts stand for themselves.
With everything said, we still use antibiotics to assist with minor infections, in doing this we also destroy the good bacteria. It becomes a vicious cycle, the surviving bacteria are stronger and cause additional infections, because our colonies of good bacteria are depleted our immunity to these infections is decreased and even non existent. The cycle is repeated until we have nothing left to fight with, or do we? We can boost our good bacteria with foods and juices that will strengthen and feed them. Next we can replace lost good bacteria with therapeutic strength , high quality bacterial supplements or bacterial boosters. We may lose a battle but the bacterial war is not lost.
If you have ever had a yeast infection then you may have experienced a side effect of over use of antibiotics. Unfortunately having a yeast infection can snowball, affecting your daily routine. This insidious problem can effect men and children as well. The most common yeast in humans is -Candida albicans- This yeast is found on our skin and in the lower bowel and vagina. It is kept under control by good bacteria. Use of antibiotics, cortisone, or hormone medication can trigger an over production of yeast which transforms into a fungus. This fungus puts down roots called rhizomes, they can then spread quickly through the body. This transformation can be prevented by biotin which is produced by your good bacteria.
Cancer the most feared illness of all time can in short be prevented and if contracted be fought though the good bacteria that reside within your body. However without sounding like a broken record, maintaining a healthy diet is important in preventing many cancers from getting a foothold in your body. Some of the nasty culprits are animal fats, and proteins, these foods do two things in the digestive tract: 1.)putrefaction which leads to a decrease in good bacteria and thus increasing the bad guys. The bad bacteria , 2.) in turn produce enzymes that can convert the chemical products of digestion into carcinogenic chemicals. Limit these foods in your diet, but increase the amount of cultured milk products and fermented foods you consume. Consuming these types of foods increases the level of lactic acid in the intestines and helps to get rid of many bad bacteria. Remember bad bacteria like the environment to be alkaline. Proven fact populations that eat these types of foods consistently have low rates of cancer.
Do we maintain a Healthy Colon?
The colon is the last part of your digestive system,it is the final area that your body uses to utilize nutrients. You are thinking,come on the body has already taken out all the vital nutrients, but think back the colon manufactures vitamins, enzymes and other important elements. It in fact comes into contact with most of your internal organs at one point or another. So if you develop cancer in the liver,pancreas, or stomach, at some point they may track the source back to your colon. Avoiding this can be done by maintaining a healthy colon. That is to say you must maintain your healthy colon by good adequate elimination of toxins, by having daily regularity. Bottom line,excuse the pun, the best way to do this maintenance is to maintain a good bacteria ratio to bad coliform bacteria.
With your fast paced life style do you have time to maintain your colon? The answer is simple, yes , if you prevent an upset of your good to bad ratio of bacteria, then you will not have to practice damage control.
So in conclusion if you maintain a healthy colon where good bacteria call home, making sure that as I mentioned before the ratio of good bacteria 85 percent to 15 percent bad bacteria, then you have Utopia. In addition if you have a healthy colon then you have a healthy body period. So maintain a good diet, relax don't sweat the little things, and avoid over use of broad spectrum antibiotics.
Acknowlegements to : Friendly Bacteria by Dalton Moore;Publishing Rights to : Alive Books Burnaby,B.C. ( Out Of Print )