The human digestive system contains a colony of micro-organisms including yeasts, parasites, fungus and bacterial species. Some are considered ‘good’ and others ‘bad’. While everyone’s gut flora balance is different and can be made up of more than 400+ species, a regular intake of good bacteria is essential for keeping ‘bad’ bacteria, parasites, fungus and yeast in check.
The most common species of bacteria in the human digestive tract include Bacteroides, anaerobic gram-positive cocci, such as Peptostreptococcus sp., Eubacterium sp., Lactobacillus sp., and Clostridium sp. An imbalance in the gut flora may present as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, skin problems such as eczema, food intolerances as well as more chronic health conditions including IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), depression and autoimmune diseases.
Functions of bacteria in the digestive system:
- Immunity: It’s estimated that 80% of the immune system is formed in the gastrointestinal system
- Producing enzymes to aid digestion
- Produce Vitamin K2 needed for thrombosis (blood clotting)
- Formation of endogenous biotin, B12, folate and thiamin
- Fermenting indigestible carbohydrates (fibre) into short chain fatty acids including butyrate, as a major energy source for enterocytes (immune cells in the gut) and breakdown dietary carcinogens
Factors that can disrupt the bacterial balance in the digestive system include:
- Antibiotic therapy
- The oral contraceptive pill
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Diet of processed, refined and high sugar foods
- Poor fibre intake
Daily intake of good bacteria is essential to maintain a healthy immune system, endogenous vitamin formation and support digestion. Some excellent sources of probiotics include yoghurt, kefir, miso paste, sauerkraut, Kim Chi and Vida Glow’s Beauty Blend.