Good and Bad Bowel Bacteria and Health

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The Digestive System

Bowel Good and Bad Bacteria and Health

By: Laurence T. Gayao MD

Emerging research from multiple reputable centers are linking the health of the gut, the digestive system, particularly the stomach, intestines and colon to ones general health.

The gut is essentially the gatekeeper that enables body to absorb useful compounds and rejecting harmful ones. Over 2/3 of our immune cells are in our gut.

The gut is also home 100 trillion of bacteria, the greatest concentration is in the colon. The normal concentration of bacteria in the small intestine is 10,000 per milliliter (ml) and the colon 1,000,000 per mill liter. There is good and bad bowel bacteria and there is symbiotic (mutually beneficial) and pathogenic (maybe disease causing) relationship with body respectively.

Good Bacteria

The good bacteria aids in the metabolism of nutrients and help certain substances get into the blood stream. These bacteria also protects from the less helpful bacterial strains. The adaptive immune system of the body is influenced the bacterial population of the gut. Studies have shown that modifying bacterial composition to enhance the good bacteria has improved or reversed certain immune or allergic and other chronic diseases.

A new study has reported that the presence of Clostridia, a common class of gut bacteria, protects against food allergies. Food allergies affect 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children, have potentially life-threatening problem that currently has no cure. Clostridia caused innate immune cells to produce high levels of interleukin-22 (IL-22), a signaling molecule known to decrease the permeability of the intestinal lining preventing the food allergens from entering the blood stream. The discovery points toward probiotic therapies for this so-far untreatable condition. Intestinal bacteria also play a role in synthesizing vitamin B and vitamin K as well as metabolizing bile acidssterols and xenobiotics.

Bad Bacteria In contrast the less desirable bacteria can emit chemicals that may compromise the intestinal lining causing inflammation and compromising its function. It may cause poor absorptions of nutrients, permit harmful substances to be absorbed in to the blood, decrease production essential vitamins, decrease in energy level, some bacteria may even lead to weight gain, chronic bloating, flatulence diarrhea or constipation, allergies and other immune disorders also in severe cases weight loss. Immune deregulation is also associated with the increased incidence of cancer.

Relation of Diet and Gut Bacteria What could we do to enhance the good bacteria in our gut? “Scientists from Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco had men and women to stick to one of two specialized diets for 5 days. One groups diet was “plant-based” and consisted almost entirely of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The other group “meat-based” diet was animal-centric, and heavy on beef and pork, eggs, and dairy foods like cheese.

After just one day, the study team had already observed significant changes to the bacterial composition of the participants’ guts. Specifically, the levels of bile-resistant bacteria—including a type that animal research has linked to colon inflammation—became elevated among the meat-centric eaters. The plant-based diet had different but similarly rapid effects on the gut  micro-biome though previous studies suggest these types of plant-based changes may be good for your gut health, explains study coauthor Lawrence David, PhD, now of Duke University.” (The Crazy Thing Meat Does To Your Belly). Could this possibly explains the higher incidence of colon cancer in individuals with high intake of red meat.

“Lean steak is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein — qualities normally considered healthy. But eating a lot of it can still cause heart disease. Researchers have now laid the blame on bacteria in the human gut that convert a common nutrient found in beef into a compound that may speed up the build-up of plaques in the arteries. Stanley Hazen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says the study could signal a new approach to diet and health.” The results are published in Nature Medicine

What can we do to cultivate desirable bacteria and suppressing the bad?

Take Antibiotics Judiciously Avoid taking antibiotics unless medically necessary as it would destroy both good and bad bacterial and lead to over growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. If you have to use it take a probiotic with it. If you develop diarrhea while on an antibiotic stop it and inform your physician, because you could increased antibiotic resistant bacterial over growth which may lead to potentially serious problems.

The wide spread use of antiseptics in food and daily activities sterilizes the environment especially when raising children so they don’t get expose to bacteria most of it is harmless and essential for our health to develop their immune defense.

 Choose Foods that Nurture Beneficial Bacteria Probiotics — the good bacteria in fermented foods and supplements — bolster the number of friendly bacteria in the gut. For relatively healthy people, it’s always a good idea to start with real food before taking supplements.

Bifidobacteria, found in most yogurt, release chemicals that create an acidic environment in which many harmful bacteria can’t thrive in.

Eat foods that nourish healthful bacteria with prebiotics, which contain non-digestible carbohydrates — found in whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, and chicory root. High fiber diet also contributes to good bacterial growth. Increasing intake of these foods has been associated with decrease in irritable bowel syndrome and fat storage (and may reduce allergic reactions like skin rashes and asthma) — as well as an increase in an overall feeling of well-being, according to a 2010 issue of the “British Journal of Nutrition.”

 Avoid Processed Foods Processed foods which has been sterilized and have preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth. They have unnaturally disproportionate amount substances like sugars and fats and low on fiber which enhances the growth of harmful bacteria which causes irritation to bowel lining.

Avoid fatty foods Fats not only promote the growth of bad bacteria, also causes inflammation of the lining of the bowel causing harmful substances produce by bacteria to be absorbed into the blood stream says Rob Knight, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hippocrates was once quoted for saying “all disease begins in the gut.” Looks like he was very much ahead of his time, because as we see now science is linking poor gut health with a host of health problems.  So what do you think?  Do you want to control the kind of bacteria in you gut? That is a question you only could answer because you are the only one who is charge not me.

Your Fitness Doc


Other related subjects:

What Is Your Gut Telling You?

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth


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