One and a half kilos of intestinal bacteria are key to your health
Research indicates that bacteria in our intestines have a major impact on our health and well-being.
Your intestines contain some 1.5 kilos of intestinal bacteria.
Most of them are harmless and helpful, but if the composition of bacteria suffers from an imbalance, and the hazardous bacteria become too many, the risk of serious diseases increases.
This is why it is a good idea to pamper the good bacteria and starve out the bad ones.
What bacteria do for you
The enormous collection of intestinal bacteria is popularly known as intestinal flora, but the correct designation is microbiota (small life).
Their job is, among other things, to:
- break down and digest your food
- convert dietary fibre into fatty acids, which are the most important source of nutrition for the cells of the intestine
- keep your intestinal mucosa healthy and dense, preventing harmful substances from penetrating into your blood
- combat pathogenic bacteria
- produce important vitamins
- keep your immune system in balance
There are virtually no intestinal bacteria in the small intestine. This is where we break down and absorb our food.
The greatest concentration of intestinal bacteria is in the large intestine. The closer you get to the anal orifice, the higher the count of intestinal bacteria.
The importance of intestinal bacteria for your health
Researchers have indeed grown aware of the importance of bacteria for our health.
Your microbiota has an impact on everything, from how healthy you are to how much you weigh and even to what you think.
For example, it has come to light that overweight people have a particular microbiota and that children with autism have a different microbiota than children without.
The same pattern is observed in people suffering from infectious diseases. Researchers believe that this can be owing to an imbalance in the bacterial composition.
Bacteriologists divide our intestinal bacterial into classes, genera, families, species and subspecies, and research is now underway in full steam to find out what individual species of bacteria do for us and for our health. Manipulations of our microbiota can perhaps become an effective and easy way to treat serious diseases in a long-term perspective.
Get healthier in 14 days by changing your diet
Experiments demonstrate that, for example, a change in your diet can change the bacterial composition in your intestine.
Being 14 days on a diet that consists of fish, poultry, fresh berries, yoghurt, seeds and massive amounts of vegetables can help you grow several different bacteria in the intestine. At the same time, you must starve out the bad bacteria by avoid foods such as, for example, candy, large steaks, bread and pasta.
This dietary composition produces a greater diversity in the intestine. And according to the researchers, it is precisely bacterial diversity that is important, as a direct correlation has been found between a number of chronic diseases and the lack of diversity in the intestinal microbiota
Mom’s stools as a birthday present
No two people are alike, and the same is valid for the composition of bacteria in our intestine.
When we are foetuses in the womb, we have completely sterile intestines. If we are born vaginally, we get our first bacteria at birth. By nature we are namely born with our mouth against our mother’s bottom, which is why we get both her vaginal and intestinal bacteria.
And researchers have strong grounds to suspect that these bacteria help regulate our immune systems.
Children who are born by Caesarean section miss out on the good bacteria from their mothers. They mostly come in contact with other people’s skin in the first minutes of their lives. They are therefore at a higher risk of certain disorders that could have been prevented by a healthy microbiota.
Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to see any difference in the microbiota in children born vaginally and children born by Caesarean section by the age of 7.
Your personal bacterial cocktail
After the first year, breast milk and bacteria are of less importance, and by the age of 3, the child has created his or her own microbiota. This happens automatically when the child chews on a shoe or kisses the neighbour’s dog. Bacteria from the surrounding environment and food find their way to the child’s intestine and help create individual microbiota.
No one knows what the optimal bacterial cocktail is, but experts believe, as mentioned above, that the key to good health is having many different types of bacteria or, in other words, that what is of importance is a great diversity.
By Christa Zenobie Dahl