Many people think of bacteria as totally unwanted microorganisms that bring disease. The truth is they play a vital role in the proper running of our bodies, especially in our digestive systems.
There are more than 400 kinds of bacteria in our bodies at any given time, and many of these are good for us. For example, certain bacteria assist in breaking down tough matter and starches that the stomach would otherwise find difficult to digest. This helps the body convert food into useful energy.
Another benefit of bacteria is the production of vitamin K, which is a by-product of the process in which bacteria break down food in the digestive system.
Bacteria in the stomach help the stomach lining to constantly renew itself. Without good bacteria, damaged and infected cells could lead to ulcers and even cancerous growths. Several unique bacteria, such as acidophilus, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacterium, also protect the digestive system by creating unfavourable conditions for other harmful bacteria.
The Problem with Antibiotics
A problem that many of our bodies often suffer is the purging of any and all kinds of bacteria when we take antibiotics to get rid of nasty, unwanted infections. Antibiotics do not differentiate between wanted and unwanted bacteria, wiping the body clean of almost all the bacteria out. Many chronic diseases that humans suffer, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and diabetes, the immune system fights the good bacteria as well as the bad, which may lead to further progression of the disease if not treated with “replacement bacteria”.
Probiotics are live microorganisms vital to restoring microbial balance in the digestive system. They are available as specially added live cultures in dietary supplements, but are most effective when cold, for example when included in yogurt.
Studies suggest that probiotics may play a positive role in fighting intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, urogenital infections and even allergies. The precious balance that our body needs to avoid falling ill and experiencing allergies (two common symptoms of people with bacterial imbalances) is 85% good bacteria, 15% bad.
Bacteria and The Skin
Digestive bacteria are not the only kind that performs a service for your body. “Commensals” are bacteria that live on the surface of the skin, and are named as such because it is a mutually beneficial relationship between host and bacteria, without being interdependent. We provide them with food and warmth, while they keep bad bacteria in check and guard us from diseases and infections.
The face is particularly susceptible to bacterial growth, and sometimes this results in acne aggravated by parasitic bacteria. To treat the condition, many purge their faces of any and all bacteria with chemical soaps or lotions. A more effective and gentler treatment, which leaves the good bacteria in place while controlling the bad, is simply to wash daily with an anti-oil soap.
All in all, the body needs bacteria far more than many imagine, so keep this in mind when using harsh antibacterial medicines and antibiotics.
This article was contributed by Jeff who writes for the blog over at the South African medical aid portal Medicalaid-Quotes.co.za.