We have at least as many bacteria as our own body cells in the body – about 40-50 trillion (yes, that’s eye popping 50,000,000,000,000), though some experts put the number much higher for bacteria. Numerous microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and archaea, live in various organ tissue and bio-fluids like saliva, mucus etc. Esimated 10,000 microbial species are in human body. Each of us has personalized collection of bacteria, called the Microbiome. Human gut flora is established 1-2 years after birth – source being mother and environment baby grows in.
Most of these microorganism have a non-harmful (commensal) existence. Actually, many of microorganisms, like about 40 trillion of bacterial from about 500-1000 species residing in our gut, have a mutualistic and symbiotic relationship with us. In fact, bacteria make up almost 60% of dry mass of feces. Besides gut, microorganisms are abundant in skin, lungs, oral cavity, uterus etc. Bacteria help us out in multiple digestive functions, immunity support, inhibition of pathogens, metabolism, weight management etc.
Microflora communities go out of order due to excessive antibiotics, laxatives, heavy metals, diarrhea, medical treatments, and environmental pollutants. When microflora communities are out of order, it can lead to numerous diseases including inflammatory disorders, irritable bowel disease, ulcers, obesity, and liver ailments. To maintain good health, while we must protect against gram-negative (pathogenic) bacteria, we must also support gram-positive (helpful). By having right good bacteria colonization, bad bacteria can’t harm us, and we can do the following to achieve the same:
- Eat probiotic foods like fermented foods and yogurt: The bacteria that cause fermentation help us ferment carbohydrates in the intestines. Examples include fermented rice, pickled garlic/radish etc. Skip the low fat type of yogurts, though, and go for full fat ones
- Probiotic supplements: Quickest and easiest way to get some good bacteria into the body – just watch out for which strains of bacteria and how much bacteria you will really get
- Eat right amount of fiber: Fiber is basically food for gut flora. Watch out for how much you can tolerate and adjust to right kind of and amount of fiber consumption
- Herbs and supplements: Many herbs like triphala, fennel, marshmallow, licorice, aloe, dandelion, and chia have fantastic positive effect on digestive tract. L-Glutamine amino acid also helps strengthening the intestinal walls.
It is vital to remember how our bodies are colonized by microbiota and how these microorganisms help us stay healthy. We must get free from the harmful ones and help colonies of good ones flourish and stay in good shape.