Bacteria make up to 95% of all the cells in our bodies. There are many kinds and most of them reside in the digestive tract. While it’s true that bacteria cause many diseases, but without them we would not be able to live. Bacteria help decompose waste and dead cells. They also help with digestion, metabolism and fight off other unfriendly bacteria.
Imagine your digestive tract as a garden. People usually tend to their gardens to keep them nice and beautiful. They plant nice flowers, fertilize the soil, and weed the undesirable plants. But who does that with their guts? With these numbers of bacteria, it kind of makes sense to have them working for you rather than against you.
Parasitic kinds of bacteria reside in the host and take up resources while harming the host (you). They cause disease and their waste can be toxic. They can be likened to the weeds in your garden – you want to be rid of them.
The commensalistic type is one that lives off the host but does not help or harm the host. Most of the bacteria in the body is of this type.
But there are also bacteria that have a mutualistic relationship with the host. The host provides an environment for them to exist and feed, while they in return perform many useful functions. Chances are humans and bacteria have developed together and cannot be easily separated. We depend on them to help extract energy from food, get rid of waste, and fight off different parasites. These type should be encouraged to take up residence in the digestive tract.
So, keeping up with the garden analogy, what can we do to make sure that we have plenty of good bacteria while keeping the bad ones to minimum? You can apply weed killer in your garden, but inside your guts you cannot distinguish between friend or foe. Antibiotics and other anti-bacterial drugs do not discriminate, and should only be taken when absolutely necessary. We need a different strategy.
Fertilizer in the garden will make all plants grow, but we know that certain parasites in the guts like certain foods more than others. For example, sugar and refined starches provide easy feed for all sorts of parasites like yeast, fungi and plaque bacteria on the teeth. If you keep these food types to minimum, they will be starved off and not multiply as fast.
You can also plant some useful and nice looking plants in your garden. In your digestive tract, you can reinforce the friendly troops by adding supplements. There are many popular pro-biotic products on the market containing acidophilus strains.
Remember to tend to your personal garden and get the little critters to work with you and not against you. This will ensure that your guts are finely tuned and you get most benefit from the food you eat. This in turn will support you staying in shape.