For individuals with stomach issues, can maintaining gut flora balance promote and improve gut health?
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Maintaining gut flora balance is part of optimal digestive health. Gut microbiota, gut microbiome, or gut flora, are the microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses that live in the digestive tract. The type and amount of bacteria present depend on their location in the body which could be the small intestine and colon. This is the storage housing for waste/stool, and the colon comprises hundreds of different types of bacteria, which have specific jobs and functions.
The more common pathogens are bacteria that can cause illness if left unchecked, including germs like streptococcus/strep throat or E. coli/urinary tract infections and diarrhea. Other common germs found in the colon include: (Elizabeth Thursby, Nathalie Juge. 2017)
Healthy bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, help maintain gut flora balance and keep the unhealthy bacteria in check. Without healthy flora, the entire colon can become overrun by bad flora, which can result in symptoms like diarrhea and/or illness. (Yu-Jie Zhang, et al., 2015) These protective, microscopic germs have important functions that include:
Whether labeled as healthy bacteria or unhealthy, they are both single-celled organisms that can be destroyed quite easily. Sometimes, it is necessary, like when having to take antibiotics to kill a strep throat infection. However, the antibiotics also kill the beneficial bacteria, which can lead to compounding problems that can include: (Mi Young Yoon, Sang Sun Yoon. 2018)
There are different ways to destroy bacteria including.
Many times, problems with gut flora will correct themselves, and no action is required. However, individuals facing chronic bowel problems, like colitis or inflammatory bowel disease, may require medical intervention of their colon’s bacteria.
Thursby, E., & Juge, N. (2017). Introduction to the human gut microbiota. The Biochemical journal, 474(11), 1823–1836. doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20160510
Zhang, Y. J., Li, S., Gan, R. Y., Zhou, T., Xu, D. P., & Li, H. B. (2015). Impacts of gut bacteria on human health and diseases. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(4), 7493–7519. doi.org/10.3390/ijms16047493
Yoon, M. Y., & Yoon, S. S. (2018). Disruption of the Gut Ecosystem by Antibiotics. Yonsei medical journal, 59(1), 4–12. doi.org/10.3349/ymj.2018.59.1.4
Quigley E. M. (2013). Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(9), 560–569.
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