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5 Ways Microbiomes Improve Your Health

Mircobiomes are filled with bacteria which are typically considered to be dangerous and avoided but are there ways that bacteria in your digestive system can actually improve your health?

There are more than 400 types of bacteria found in fecal matter and in your large intestine there can be as much as one trillion bacterial per gram of gastrointestinal tract. Most of these bacteria in the intestinal tract are anaerobic, which means that they do not need oxygen for growth. Your intestinal microflora and/or gut microbiome are made up of bacteria that have adapted to living in specific environments can be affected by a variety of factors including pH, medications, diet and availability of substrates or food.

In the stomach you find less bacteria due to stomach acids which make the pH of the stomach unfriendly to many bacteria except some acid-resistant ones like streptococcus and lactobacillus. Bacteria in your intestines use nutrients found in unabsorbed food residues in the intestines to grow and work.

There is much interest in probiotics, or foods that contain live cultures of specific strains of bacteria. The idea is that the probiotics establish themselves in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common probiotic bacteria found in the market are lactic acid bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Some of the most common probiotic strains include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and L. acidophilus.

Probiotics are beneficial in many ways to your both your gut microbiome and health. Probiotics appear to be helpful in preventing and treating conditions like diarrhea, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Probiotics also appear to be helpful in cases of infected pancreatitis, and postoperative liver transplant infections.

These healthy bacteria are thought to work in both immunological and nonimmunological ways. Some of the roles in which they may work include;

1. Acidify the colonic pH by producing products of fermentation like short-chain fatty acids.

2. Transform and support excretion of toxic substances that can be harmful to your body like bile acids, heterocyclic amines and nitrosamines which are carcinogenic.

3. Enhance the production of fecal bulk which can speed up transit time of wastes through your colon which results in less time your colon is exposed to toxic substances.

4. Improve the body’s immune system by increasing the production of secretory IgA. It also can help to tighten mucosal barriers, enhancing white blood cells response and phagocytic activity, or protecting the body from harmful foreign substances.

5. Displacing harmful pathogenic bacteria and thereby preventing them from colonizing. They may also do this by strengthening your mucosal barrier to normalize intestinal permeability and prevent bad bacteria from moving other places in the body.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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