Good and bad bacteria
Bacteria live throughout our whole body, with the average healthy adult having 100 trillion good and bad bacteria in the gut alone! These microscopic bacteria outnumber our human cells 10 to 1. Based on these numbers – we humans are 95% bacteria! The balance of our good and bad bacteria is constantly changing, responding to our environment and our diet.
The food we eat, is more than just calories, vitamins and minerals. Our meals provide prebiotics or ‘food’ to our gut bacteria, regulating our good and bad bacteria mix. In turn these bacteria show their appreciation by keeping our bodies in balance. Long term dietary patterns can have an impact on our good and bad bacteria in our gut. Do you give these 100 trillion good and bad bacteria the attention they deserve?
There are many known health benefits associated with the balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut.
Good and bad bacteria – Nutrition & Digestion
The good bacteria that live in our digestive tract support the body in optimal nutrition and digestion by synthesising vitamin K, certain B Vitamins and nutrients – such as Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA).
SCFA are produced following the fermentation of food by our gut bacteria, which in turn help the good gut bacteria to thrive. SCFA are a fuel for the cells lining our large bowel, aiding absorption of nutrients and water, keeping our bowels happy and healthy and helping to reduce diseases such as Bowel Cancer.
Good and bad bacteria – Immune system
Any bad bacteria, that make it through the protective stomach acid, are met by these trillion good bacteria. The good and bad bacteria compete by producing natural antibiotics to kill off these invading germs. Not only that, but the good bacteria teach our immune system how to fight off bad bugs that make us ill and ignore the things that aren’t a threat, generating ‘friendly’ signals to our immune system.
Good and bad bacteria – Disease
When the balance between our good and bad gut bacteria gets out of kilter, it can be associated with a number of diseases and conditions – such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD), Diabetes, Obesity, Heart disease, Allergic disorders, Coeliac disease, Asthma and certain Cancers.
The research around the role our good and bad bacteria play in our health is constantly evolving with exciting discoveries. What is clear is that these trillions of microbes play an astoundingly important role in our health and need to be looked after.
Looking after your bacteria
Our good and bad bacteria are constantly changing in response to our environment and our diet. Exciting research is emerging around the role of yoghurt and probiotic (good bacteria) supplements in the balance between our good and bad bacteria. Research is also increasingly helping us to understand the role our diet plays in influencing the balance of good and bad bacteria. Many foods act as a prebiotic (food for your good bacteria), so the usual healthy eating advice applies – a varied diet high in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains to supply food to our bacterial friends.
Are you worried about food intolerances? Or have you cut certain foods out of your diet? Discuss any foods that you’ve eliminated from your diet with a Dietitian and look after your good and bad bacteria balance.