Bacteria – Friend or Foe?


The first antibiotic was discovered in 1929 and it came into clinical usage in 1946 and made a huge impact on public health. Its discovery had misled many to believe that infectious diseases were no longer a threat to human life. Contrary, the abusive usage of these drugs has enhanced antibiotic resistance and given rise to “superbugs” that can no longer be cured with antibiotics.

We need both Good and Bad bacteria

Actually, bacteria are very sophisticated and they can be helpful to human health.
The human body needs good bacteria to

  • digest food (in the digestive tract)
  • absorb nutrients
  • break down toxins
  • prevent allergies
  • build immunization against diseases

The human body also needs bad bacteria. Your immune system is constantly gathering data from whatever bad guys (AKA pathogens) are hanging out in the body at any given time. This data is what tells your immune system how to kick off the defenses when your body is under attack. Without these bad bacteria in the body, your immune system wouldn’t know what to do.

Just like the soil supports the tree, your intestinal flora supports your tissues and organs. And just like the nutrients get filtered and modified through the soil so the tree can utilize them, so do the nutrients in your body get filtered and modified through your intestinal flora, and in this way, you can utilize them. Therefore, instead of going all out to destroy bacteria, the smarter choice is to learn how to live harmoniously with these bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

A balanced intestinal flora is ideally 80% good bacteria

Good bacteria strive in an environment without oxygen while bad bacteria like oxygen. Bad bacteria use up the oxygen to provide an environment suitable for the good bacteria to survive. This means that everyone needs a balanced ecology of good and bad bacteria, with 80-20% ratio being the ideal. Unfortunately, modern lifestyle and environment factors have reversed this ratio for humans currently.

Babies are born with at least 90% of good bacteria (particularly Bifidus or Bifidobacteria) in their digestive tract. This ratio drops to 25% after a baby is weaned and down to 10% reaching adulthood, and less than 5% after 65 years old. Poor nutrition, illness, medications, chemotherapy, antibiotics, genetics, environment pollutants, and stress are some of the factors that disrupt the natural ecology of the digestive tract causing bacterial imbalance (also known as microflora imbalance).

When the maid can’t clean up!

04Microflora imbalance can cause many problems including poor bowel movements, indigestion, poor absorption of nutrients, weak immune resistance, and toxins. Your body is designed to cope with a certain level of toxicity. This is actually the most important role of your liver — to help transform toxins into stuff that can be eliminated out of your body through the bowels, the bladder or the skin. But as the good bacteria lose battles against the bad ones, the level of toxicity increases. In addition, there are many chemical and environmental toxins that enter the body non-stop every day and the result is a clogged elimination system.

Now you have toxins in the blood stream, traveling freely all over your body. The immune system is trying to do its job, but there are so many different pathogens and toxins all over the place that it gets confused and overwhelmed; it becomes over-reactive and starts fighting everything back, including the body’s own cells, tissues and organs. This is what’s known as Autoimmunity. Some of the problems related to Autoimmunity are allergies, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Grave’s disease, and Type 1 diabetes (related to autoimmune in the pancreas).

Many things can go wrong when your gut flora is in disorder. Some of the most well-known gut problems are

  • IBD (inflammatory bowel disease),
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome),
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease),
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • ulcerative colitis,
  • celiac disease and
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a prevalent problem in developed countries. It is a disease that relates to the inflammation of the intestinal inner lining (mucosa) or intestinal wall resulting in ulcers (open, painful wounds) and diarrhea. On other side, autism and schizophrenia are two mental disorders that have strong ties to gut flora problems. Finally, inflammation that starts in the gut often leads to inflammation elsewhere in the body like the joints or arteries.

Keeping a healthy gut flora balance is of much importance for the prevention and healing of many ailments and for general well-being. So how do you keep a balanced ecology of bacteria in your body?

  • consume more fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods to build a stronger gut flora.
  • take supplements like probiotics or prebiotics to help grow the good bacteria.

Prebiotics are “food” that good bacteria “eat” in order to multiply; one common prebiotic being oligosaccharide.