Did you know that there are over 1000 different types of bacteria living inside your body? Bacteria have a bad reputation of causing disease but not all of them are bad, infact most of them do not cause any harm and are absolutely essential for life.
It may be hard to believe but we actually harbour 100 trillion bacteria, most of which are found in the intestine. They are called Intestinal flora and weigh about 1.5-2 kg (as much as the liver). Scientists call them the “Forgotten Organ” because they influence our life, safeguard our health and shape our bodies.
The next obvious question is how do these bacteria work? Right from birth, the newborn is crowded with bacteria which comes from the mother, the environment in which the delivery takes place, the air etc. You must know that we cannot live without bacteria – they are the ones that help in the digestion of food and help us to build our immune system so that we can fight infection and live comfortably. They are our Health Heroes in more ways than one.
Protect babies from infections –
Whoever thought that breast milk is sterile will be surprised to know that breast milk contains 200 different types of bacteria. These bacteria are critical in building the new born’s health and immune system and thus prevents them from suffering from diseases and other acute infections later in life.
Essential for immunity –
To develop our immune system we need bacteria; especially in our intestine which has about 70% of the body’s immune system. These bacteria play crucial roles in developing and enhancing our immune system reducing incidence and severity of diseases.
Personal Power Plants –
Bacteria in the digestive system are important for the breakdown of nutrients, such as complex sugars and resistant starch to molecules called short-chain fatty acids that can be absorbed easily by the body. Infact, about 30% of the calories that we get from food are actually broken down by the bacteria in our intestine.
Vitamin Suppliers –
Interestingly bacteria in the intestine can produce and supply vitamins especially Vitamin K and Vitamin B12 to the human body. Vitamin B is easily destroyed by cooking and many of us suffer from the deficiency of this important vitamin. Bacteria may help overcome this.
Influence Our Mood –
Have you ever heard the phrase, “sick with fear’ or “butterflies in the stomach”? Scientists have found that bacteria in the intestine can influence our mood by producing hormones like Dopamine and Serotonin (the good gut hormones) which reduce stress and anxiety.
Maintaining the good bacteria is, therefore, more important than destroying the harmful ones.
A well – balanced diet, physical activity, adequate sleep, lots of fibre, water and consuming probiotics are some of the ways to increase the essential bacteria in the body.