Most people believe bacteria — all bacteria — are harmful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost everything is covered with bacteria, as is the human body. In fact, between 400 and 500 different species of bacteria live in the GI tract and are estimated to account for as much as three pounds of a person’s body weight.
Under ideal circumstances, while potentially dangerous and health-robbing strains of bacteria may be present, other beneficial strains of bacteria keep their numbers in check. It’s only when certain “bad” strains of bacteria get out of control that problems arise. Problems can range from something as simple as diarrhea or as complex and serious as a systemic infection.
It is impossible to eliminate all the potentially pathogenic bacteria from the environment, nor would it be advisable. For humans to exist, a balance must be maintained — not only in the external environment but in the internal environment as well.
Chronic Problems May Start in the Colon
The bowel is a warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment that lacks oxygen and strong digestive fluids, which makes it an ideal place for bacteria to grow and flourish. Today’s diet that contains little fiber and lots of excess sugar, salt and processed foods makes it easy to understand how pathogenic bacteria can gain a foothold in the colon. To make matters worse, Americans have drastically reduced consumption of vegetables and beneficial essential fatty acids and those found in certain fish (including salmon, mackerel and herring) and flaxseed.
Imbalanced colons support the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which are constantly spewing toxins into the system. In turn, this causes the immune system to work overtime just to keep things under control.
How to Maintain Bacterial Balance
The best method of establishing and replenishing bacterial flora is the use of fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut and yogurt. Ideally, everyone would include a small amount of naturally fermented food in their diet daiy. But that isn’t always convenient or possible, and that’s when a probiotic supplement can provide additional support.
Stress, changes in diet, contaminated food, chlorinated water and numerous other factors also can alter the bacterial flora in the intestinal tract.