NORMAL GUT FLORA (GUT BACTERIA): A NECESSITY FOR GOOD HEALTH
In previous articles, we have seen that about 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad, live inside your digestive system, and collectively they’re known as the gut microbiota. The number of bacteria present inside our digestive tract is approx. Ten times more than the total number of cells in our body. Every individual’s gut microbiota is unique. An individual’s food and lifestyle habits decide the type of bacteria Good (friendly) or Bad (Harmful) he/she will have in large number within the digestive tract. Subsequently, it also decides his or her health. If the number of Good (friendly) bacteria is more than that of a harmful (bad) one, it aids in maintaining good health. But if the opposite happens then, one has to suffer from many health-related problems.
Our gut microbiota plays many roles. It ranges from the metabolization of nutrients from food and certain medications, producing vitamin k to even serving as a protective barrier against intestinal infections.
There are many dietary and lifestyle-related habits (Type of food, age, environmental conditions, medications, etc.) that decide the type of bacteria we will have in our digestive tract. Friendly (Good bacteria) or Infective (Bad bacteria). We have already discussed these factors in the article (Friends and Foes of our Gut bacteria)
Having more Friendly bacteria and a minimum number of Bad bacteria inside our digestive tract is necessary for good health! How? Let’s see:
- IMPROVES HEART HEALTH:
Having healthy microbial flora (Good gut bacteria) inside our digestive tract is necessary for having good cardiac health.). It helps increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, which has a beneficial effect on our heart and circulatory system.
- REDUCES THE RISK OF CHEST PAIN AND HEART ATTACK (Reduces risk of atherosclerotic narrowing of the blood vessels)
Increased number of Bad (harmful) bacteria in the digestive tract increases the risk of forming atherosclerotic plaques and subsequent blockages within the blood vessels.
It increases the risk of suffering from chest pain and heart attack. Improving the number of good (friendly) bacteria in the digestive tract by diet and lifestyle-related changes can reduce the risk of plaques formation and the subsequent threat to heart health.
- Having Good Gut bacteria (Healthy Gut flora) in a substantial number within our bowels reduces insulin resistance risk. Normal insulin sensitivity ensures, reduced risk of suffering from:
- Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus
- Metabolic syndrome.
- REDUCES THE NUMBER OF HARMFUL (BAD) BACTERIA IN THE INTESTINE:
When the number of friendly (good) bacteria in our intestines grows to a sufficient level, it contributes to reducing the number of harmful (Bad) gut microbes and improving our health.
- REDUCES THE RISK OF IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) AND INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD). (Improves the health of intestines).
- IMPROVES DIGESTIVE HEALTH:
Having healthy (friendly) gut bacteria in the digestive tract is essential for good digestive health. These Bacteria breaks down the complex food components into the simple and easily digestible one. It also improves the motility of the digestive tract. These mechanisms help in improving digestive health by:
- Improving Digestive capacity.
- Reducing the risk of Constipation, Bloating, Indigestion, etc.
- IMPROVES LIVER HEALTH:
Harmful gut bacteria create inflammation within the digestive tract. This inflammation damages the intestinal tract’s protective barrier, allowing theses inflammatory chemical to leak into the circulation and reach the liver. Within the liver, these chemicals damage the liver tissue causing the risk of Fatty liver disease.
Good gut bacteria prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines, thus preventing subsequent damage to the liver and improving its health.
- IMPROVES THE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY & OTHER MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
An unhealthy gut full of harmful gut bacteria can be one reason for psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, etc. Having healthy gut flora can help in improving psychological diseases through multiple mechanisms such as:
- Our gut and brain are connected through the nervous system; especially a nerve called the Vagus nerve. Healthy gut bacteria secrete certain chemicals that stimulate the vagus nerve to improve brain activity, thus improving mood and behaviour, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.
- Harmful microbes in the gut can damage the protective mucosal surface of the intestines, which allows the leaking of certain toxic chemicals in the circulation, which can lead to impairment of mood and energy leading to depression, anxiety, lethargy, etc. Healthy gut bacteria protect against damage to the mucosal surface, thus reduce the risk of psychological illnesses.
- IMPROVES MOOD (Psychological wellbeing).
Healthy (Good) gut bacteria help in the production of the hormone serotonin. The serotonin hormone is responsible for positively improving our mood. Thus having a sufficient number of healthy gut bacteria in the digestive tract is necessary for psychological wellbeing.
- REDUCED RISK OF DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.
Having a higher number of harmful bacteria in our intestines increases the risk of Alzheimer’s diseases or Dementia. It brings about chemical changes, which leads to the deposition of plaques between nerve cells in our brain. Having sufficient good bacteria eliminates the harmful microbes from the intestine and reduces the risk of Dementia and or Alzheimer’s disease.
- IMPROVES THE FUNCTION OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. (PREVENTS FREQUENT INFECTIONS):
Helpful/beneficial gut bacteria, when present in a sufficient quantity, prevent the entry of harmful/disease-causing microorganism into our body through the digestive system. Also, they provide signals for the normal development and maturation of the cells of our immune system. Thus, it helps in the smooth functioning of our immune system and improving our immunity.
- REDUCES THE RISK OF AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS AND FREQUENT ALLERGIES:
Having a sufficient amount of helpful/healthy gut bacteria helps keep the immune system functioning smoothly without targeting the body’s normal cells and tissues. Thus, it keeps the immune system in check (Prevents it from becoming aggressive) and reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases Such as SLE. Rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
- IMPROVES THE HEALTH AND TEXTURE OF THE SKIN. (Reduces the risk of suffering from Acne, rash, dryness. etc.):
When our intestine has a large population of harmful gut bacteria, these bacteria generate inflammation in the gut when we eat food, releasing certain toxic chemicals. Skin being the largest organ in the body, reacts to these chemicals, resulting in skin problems like Acne, dry skin, rash, eczema, etc.
But when we have a sufficient number of friendly/helpful microflora (Bacteria) within our intestines, it reduces harmful bacteria. Thus, there is a reduction in the inflammation and subsequent risk of skin problems associated with it and improves the skin’s texture.
- REDUCES THE RISK OF CERTAIN TYPES OF CANCERS. (Breast cancer, Colon Cancer)
Having a sufficient amount of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract improves the overall health of our body. It also reduces the development of risk factor associated with Cancer, thus, reduce the risk of suffering from Cancer.
- PRODUCES CERTAIN TYPES OF VITAMINS:
The bacteria produce Vitamin-K in the body from our digestive tract, which is necessary for adequate blood clotting. It has proteins essential for the blood clotting mechanism.