Healthy Gut Bacteria & Our Existence

You will be surprised to know that our gut contains about 100 trillion of beneficial bacteria which outnumber our cells 10 to 1. These helping bacteria hold the utmost importance in maintaining healthy functioning of the complete biological system that we refer to as ‘our body’. Most people, including many physicians, do not realize that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health. Humans are truly "meta-organisms" as we can not survive without these bacteria, therefore in biological terms, our very “self” definition should be updated to include these important others. It is also now known that in the beginning of the course of evolution, ancient bacteria teamed up with our cellular ancestors to produce the energy-producing organelles within our cells called mitochondria.

These good bacteria commonly known by the name of probiotics feed on the leftover or non-digestible nutrients of our food called prebiotics. Probiotics are essential for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, and they help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals and aid in the elimination of toxins. Probiotics help to boost our immune system and protect our body against many harmful diseases. They play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract which aids in the production of antibodies to pathogens.

Our body has both useful and harmful bacteria, and we have to maintain a proper balance in the type and number of these bacteria for the healthy functioning of our body. Healthy gut bacteria prevent the growth of bad bacteria by filling the space available for their growth. The ideal ratio between the bacteria in your gut is 85 percent "good" and 15 percent "bad."

It is very difficult to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria as we throw different types of food into our stomach without knowing the results. Living in an industrialized world, our water, air, food, and subsequently our bodies are saturated with xenobiotic chemicals (compounds foreign to our biochemistry). The number of healthy gut bacteria gets disturbed when we take antibiotics and other strong medications. People who love to eat sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods suffer from the deficiency of good bacteria because such foods become the diet of bad bacteria in our body.
Symptoms indicating you're lacking healthy bacteria include gas, bloating, constipation, frequent nausea, headaches, and sugar cravings. Related Article: Best Way to Improve Digestion

The Three Main Types of Probiotic Bacteria are:

Foods containing lactobasillus include yogurt and other fermented milk products. Studies have shown benefits linked to Lactobacillus and treating and/or preventing yeast infections, urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, traveler's diarrhea, diarrhea resulting from Clostridium difficile, treating lactose intolerance, skin disorders (fever blisters, eczema, acne, and canker sores), and prevention of respiratory infections.

This makes up approximately 90% of the healthy bacteria in the colon and helps maintain a normal digestion process. It is usually found in many different types of food sources such as cheese, yogurt, a variety of fermented dairy products and cultured vegetables, for example sauerkraut. The main purpose and function of B. longum is that it transforms sugars in lactic acid thus decreasing intestinal pH levels. Bifidobacteria longum, found in produce serves to eliminate nitrates from foods and bifidobacteria infantis, which aids to prevent unhealthy bacteria invasion such as E. coli. It is also beneficial in cases of high cholesterol, improvement of lactose intolerance signs, stimulation of immunity and cancer prevention. Bifidobacteria also reduces the immuntoxic properties of gluten peptides by degrading them into non-toxic peptides.

Streptococcus Thermophilus
Streptococcus thermophilus is used to aid in the treatment of bowel inflammation and serves as an antioxidant. It produces large quantities of the enzyme lactase, making it effective in the prevention of lactose intolerance. It is found in milk products such as yoghurt and milk based drinks and fights bad bacteria, yeast, fungus and toxins in the body.

Some of the important benefits of Healthy gut bacteria are discussed below:

Digestion and Metabolism
Probiotics convert carbohydrates into primary sources of energy and nutrients and promote mineral absorption. Without them, your body cannot absorb certain undigested starches, fiber, and sugars. They also help in the production of both vitamin K and B vitamins.

Preventing Allergies
Allergies are associated with overreacting of the immune system to non-harmful antigens. Because friendly bacteria are trained to diminish unfriendly bacteria it guides your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.

Elimination of Toxins from the Body
In some case probiotics help gastrointestinal tract to break down harmful chemical and degrading is chemical composition and in other they reduced the intestinal absorption by facilitating the excretion. Probiotics have shown to be effective against bisphenol A, insecticide, pesticide, perchlorate, vaccine, chemotherapy, sodium nitrate, aspirin & gluten toxicity.

Brain Activity & Emotional Response
Researchers from UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine have found that four weeks intake of a fermented milk with probiotics by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. Research has also connected the gut's probiotics to the brain via a conduit between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is located in the abdominal region around the digestive tract. Many of our neurotransmitters are produced in this region and the neurons relay mind-body responses between the gut and the brain stem.

Benefit in Obesity and Diabetes
A study has been done, which is published in the report given by the National Academy of Science revealed that there is an important gut bacterium named as A. Muciniphilia, which is used for finding new treatments in obesity and diabetes. Research was conducted and low levels of this bacterium were found in obese mice having diabetes of type 2, which suggested that this bacterium is responsible for obesity as well as diabetes. When probiotics were given to these mice, it resulted in improved functioning of the gut and reversed the fat mass resulting in reducing weight and normalizing blood sugar level.

Infant Growth
A study done by Norwegian researches found that there is a connection between the growth of infants and certain types of bacteria found in their digestive tracts. They published their study in PLos Computational Biology. They took stool samples of about 200 babies and found that certain important gut bacteria are required at the particular time of baby growth.  It has been known for some time that longer duration of breastfeeding (a plentiful source of probiotics) is associated with a delayed onset of celiac disease. Other studies show that a woman's gut flora can also influence the health of her child, and if your child's gut flora is compromised from birth, the immunity may be affected and he may be at an increased risk of vaccine damage.

Proper Functioning of the Immune System
Thymus is an organ that is responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system. Thymus produces T- lymphocytes, which are of two types; one is killer T cells and other is helper T cells.  Killer T cells destroy the body cells that are infected by bacteria, virus or any other harmful agents and helper T cells enhance the production of antibodies to boost up the immunity against certain diseases. Research studies were done and it was found that babies fed with bottle milk or fermented formulas have a small sized thymus as compare to babies fed with breast milk. A bacterium called Bifidobacteria was found to be responsible for the growth of thymus, and it is available in breast milk.