The science emerging on the functionality of the human gut, as well as the importance of beneficial bacteria, is nothing short of amazing. Aside from processing food, the gut and its microorganisms (which total in the trillions), play a factor in whether an individual develops cancer or becomes overweight.
Researchers contend that babies born vaginally have healthier gut microbiota (the composition of microorganisms in the gut), compared to babies born via caesarean section. This is important, and can affect a person’s health, because the beneficial bacteria in the gut (or probiotics) are believed to help battle cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Probiotic Rescue: How You can use Probiotics to Fight Cholesterol, Cancer, Superbugs, Digestive Complaints and More, written by Allison Tannis, explores the differences between good and bad bacteria, and their impact on the human body. The following is an excerpt from the book:
If you tend to be squeamish you may not want to know that your intestinal tract is home to one hundred trillion microorganisms. Microorganisms are bacteria and yeasts that are not visible to the human eye. In fact, microorganisms are all around you.
They are in the water you drink, the food you eat and the air you breathe. Don’t worry, about 95% of microorganisms are good for you. Microorganisms, sometimes called microbes, include bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, algae and protozoa.
95 percent of the gut’s microorganisms are beneficial
In your body, there are over 400 different species of microbes, living in symbiosis with you, their host. Bacteria can be found in your mouth, stomach, intestines and urogenital tract. Some bacteria found in your body are known to be beneficial to human health and are called probiotics.
Meanwhile, the other bacteria in your body, which are harmful, are called pathogenic bacteria.
Depending on the type of bacteria, there is a different effect on the body; bacteria can have healthy, e.g., immune-boosting, benefits or cause toxicological (poisoning) harm to the body. A careful balance is necessary for health. The growth of harmful microbes in your body can result in disease.
The 400 species of microbes living in your body are fighting for space. They want to live, thrive and reproduce in your intestinal tract, an environment that offers the ideal temperature, humidity and food sources. Who wins the battle for your intestinal tract? Your intestinal tract is a complex community of microbes. Do you have the right microbes in you?
Similar to many childhood tales, the intestinal tract is an ongoing battle between good and evil. There are two types of microbes in your body: the bad and the good. Bad microbes live in your intestines and normally do not cause any disease-like symptoms.
Fungi, yeasts and bacteria all live in the body and can be classified as bad microbes. Two examples of bad microbes commonly found in the human body are the bacteria E. coli and the yeast Candida albicans. What favors the growth of these bad microbes?
Bad microbes flourish in an alkaline environment. Many of them produce ammonia to change the pH of the intestinal tract to be more alkaline and thus enhance their ability to survive and flourish. Stress and diet can also influence the presence of these microbes. Keeping these bad microbes in control is vital to the body’s health.
There are also good microbes found in the body, called probiotics. Probiotics have a positive impact on the body’s health. They prefer a more acidic intestinal environment. Many of the probiotics are called lactic acid bacteria. They can secrete lactic acid into their environment, making it more acidic and thus more hospitable to them.
Stress and diet can reduce the number of probiotics in the intestinal tract. Luckily, as most childhood tales of good versus evil end in a positive light, so does this story. In a healthy body the majority of the microflora in the intestines is good bacteria, also known as probiotics.
What is a probiotic? The term probiotic originates from the ancient Greek words pro and biotica, meaning “for life.” In 2001, an Expert Consultation meeting arranged by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created a now widely accepted definition for probiotics.
They define the term probiotic as: live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Medically, probiotic is defined as microorganisms that positively affect the health of our body when administered in adequate amounts.