Billions of bacteria inhabit the intestines, and this intestinal bacteria can be beneficial to the human body in a variety of ways. For example, bacteria aids in digestion by synthesizing vitamins, converting dietary fiber, and degrading dietary toxins. Bacteria also help stimulate the development of the body's immune system. The relationship between good and bad intestinal bacteria is essential to one's health. This is because "inside [the] small and large intestines there are 400 to 500 different species of bacteria that live in synergy, as long as the good bacteria outweigh the bad bacteria. If the balance gets upset and the bad becomes more prevalent, [one] can develop many symptoms and sicknesses. The most immediate effects are excess gas, bloating and diarrhea."(1) When the development of intestinal bacteria "ceases to be regulated, [the bacteria] can proliferate and become pathogenic....The balance between these bacteria, known as commensals, and the immune system controlling them, is therefore essential. Changes in this balance can cause severe intestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease, or other chronic inflammatory conditions with serious sequelae "(2)
"The human intestine maintains within its inner cavity a complex, crowded environment of food remnants and microbial organisms (called "the intestinal flora") from which the body derives nourishment and against which the body must be protected ... Bacteria
Typically, the intestines should contain
"The two main families of friendly flora are lactobacillus, needed in the small intestine, and bifidobacterium, needed in the large intestine. Within these families are species and within that, strains."(1) "There are complex differences among the different strains of [intestinal bacteria]. Individual species can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on a number of factors, including life stage, mutation, location in your body, and presence of other strains. What's most important is not so much the sheer number of bacteria, but the balance among them."(5)
Lactobacillus is a large bacterial genus...[and] bacteria in this genus are generally benign. Lactobacillus bacteria are among a larger classification of bacteria known as lactic acid bacteria because they produce lactic acid as a byproduct when they feed. In the case of Lactobacillus, the bacteria live on sugars, converting them into lactic acid and an assortment of other compounds."(6) "Lactobacillus species are used for the production of yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, wine, cider, kimchi, chocolate and other fermented foods....(7)
Like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium is also a lactic acid producing bacteria and can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt and cheese. "Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora by producing organic compounds. These organic compounds include lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid that increase the acidity of the intestine and curb the reproduction of many harmful bacteria."(4)
There are several common types of harmful bacteria, and these
When the harmful bacteria begin to increase and feed on the food particles and other substances in the digestive tract. This often produces toxic by-products that
Benefits of Probiotics
The proper balance of bacteria can often be maintained through proper diet and limiting negative factors including stress and illness. In addition to these efforts, probiotics can help increase the body's ability to achieve this balance. While probiotics are contained in many foods, many find that supplements are the best way to introduce them into the digestive system. Many common supplements include probiotics such as Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria. These helpful supplements not only introduce the beneficial bacterias to the
(1) Weiss, J. (2007). The Bacteria You Want in Food. MSN Health and Fitness.
(2) CNRS (2008, November 18). Immune System And Intestinal Bacteria: The Key To Balanced Cohabitation. ScienceDaily.
(3) Galland, L. (1998). Intestinal Parasites, Bacterial Dysbiosis
(4) Learn the Benefits of Bifidobacterium. Published by VAXA. Unknown.
(5) Pick, M. (2009.). Probiotics – For Life! Digestion and GI Health. Published by Women to Women.
(6) Smith, S.E. (Unknown). What is Lactobacillus? Published by wiseGEEK.
(7) Ljungh, A. and Wadstrom, T. (2009). Lactobacillus Molecular Biology:
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