What are the Health Benefits of Good Bacteria?
You are never exactly alone. As a matter of fact there is a good chance that over 2 kg of your body weight isn't yours.
There are trillions of bacteria living inside each and every one of us.They make up about 2 percent of our body weight.
Some bacteria are good and some are bad. We need good bacteria to keep bad bacteria in check. Apart from their role in the immune system, good bacteria also play an important role in digestion.
If all good bacteria were to seize to exist today, we will lose the balance of our immune function and our health. Another name for good bacteria is 'probiotics' which literally means ‘for life’.
Apart from keeping harmful bacteria at bay, good bacteria produce K and B vitamins. They break down complex sugars, protein and fat into simple sugars, amino acids and simple fats. These simpler molecules can then be easily absorbed into blood stream.
Summary of the health benefits of good bacteria
- Good bacteria keep harmful bacteria at bay
- produce vitamins such as vitamin K and B
- help in the break down of food
How do good bacteria suppress bad bacteria?
Even though most bacteria are harmless to us, there are some that are harmful. They are known as pathogenic bacteria and they make us sick by secretion of toxins. Pathogenic bacteria are present in our gut in small amounts. They spend their lifetime damaging the gut wall and causing diseases.
Good bacteria suppress bad bacteria by creating a competitive environment. This is an environment where both parties have to compete for space and nutrients. This slows down the replication of bad bacteria and gives the immune system time to wipe them out.
When can bad bacteria take over?
One important factor that contributes to the bad bacteria taking over is antibiotics. When we take antibiotics, it cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria. Antibiotics will basically kill everything including good bacteria. At the end of your antibiotic course, most of the good bacteria would have been killed. If you do not repopulate your gut with good bacteria, bad bacteria will have less competition and will multiply rapidly to gain the upper hand.
When bad bacteria overgrow and dominate good ones, they start spreading to cause all kinds of health problems. Bad bacteria will act on food in our intestine and release toxins. They will irritate the wall of our intestine and may cause a condition known as leaky gut.
Therefore, it is important to not use antibiotics unless your health care provider thinks that the benefits outweigh the risks.
However, there are low levels of antibiotics in the foods we eat everyday. These are foods such as meat, chicken and all those other animals that are dosed with antibiotics.
How do you put the good bacteria back in Place?
There are times when you have to use antibiotics, even though this means you are going to lose good bacteria. The good news is that you can repopulate your gut with good bacteria after your antibiotics course.
First of all, you can repopulate your gut by eating foods that are rich sources in good bacteria such as fermented foods. These include unpasteurized yoghurt, fermented milk, unfermented milk, miso and Kefir. Good bacteria in these foods will colonize and repopulate your gut keeping the bad bacteria in check.
Secondly, eat prebiotics to feed the good bacteria. Healthy eating habit is important to help promote the good bacteria. It is important to eat plenty of plant based foods such as nuts, fruits and vegetables. These are what good bacteria thrive on. This is not only good nutrition for you but also good nutrition for the good bacteria.
Reduce processed foods and foods that contain high sugar in your diet. These basically feed the bad bacteria.
Therefore, it is recommended that immediately after your course of antibiotics, before the bad bacteria have the chance to start multiplying and spreading, take some high quality probiotic supplements. It is also recommended to take probiotics in long term bases, that is, for up to several weeks after a course of antibiotics.