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Naturopathy & DigestionGut Instinct

Good Bacteria, Bad Bacteria

As you may already know, the gastro-intestinal (GI) system (your gut) is home to billions of bacteria. In fact, there are approximately 2-3 pounds of bacteria in the gut at any one time. There are hundreds of different types of bacteria, and we can divide them into beneficial (good) and harmful (bad) bacteria.

Balance shift  Through the current lifestyles, eating habits, pollution and drugs that are abundant in modern societies, most people have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Antibiotics in particular play a very big role in disrupting the bacteria because they kill both the good and bad bacteria in your system. It is important to re-establish the cultures of good bacteria because they play many crutial roles in our bodies.

"Good bacteria" can be taken in capsule forms, under the broad name of "probiotics". Probiotic supplements usually consist of several different species of good bacteria, the most famous of which is Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus). Note that a good probiotic supplement wiill contain several species of bacteria, not just L. acidophilus. Supplementing with good bacteria will shift the bacterial balance in a positive direction.

What good are the good bacteria bacteria? Good bacteria are directly and indirectly beneficial for:

How do they affect intestinal pH?
In more detail… The pH of the body is usually within a neutral range of 6.7 - 7.3 (where water is neutral at 7.0). There are different degrees of acidity, where 1.0-3.0 is a strong acid range, and 4.0-5.5 is a weaker acid range. It is within ranges of high acidity and alkalinity that many bad bacteria and fungi thrive. (Though extremely high acidity levels such as those found in the stomach, kill bacteria. This is why probiotics should be taken with food, because food acts as a buffer and lowers the acidity of the stomach, allowing more good bacteria to survive). The bacterium L. acidophilus - the name actually implies that it is a "lover of acid" - feeds on acidic wastes. It produces lactic acid too, but this is a weaker acid than the acids it feeds on, effectively decreasing the overall acidity of its environment. Also, larger populations of good bacteria will outcompete the bad bacteria; bad bacteria are often responsible for creating mroe acidity in the body.

In summary...
We could all use more beneficial bacteria in our GI systems, and we acquire them through probiotic supplementation. We have to be careful about buying a good brand with many different strains of bacteria, and when we take them it should always be with meals. Probiotic supplements should be stored in the refrigerator.