Micro-organisms – Our Internal Flora

Carrying on from last week’s article introducing the amazing world of microbiology, this week I would like to focus more on the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).

Imagine your GIT being a complete ecosystem. The food comes in which provides nourishment, the pH is perfect for these little micro-organisms to thrive and keep the balance so that they prevent harmful bacteria from colonising. The diversity of bacteria help support your immune system, feed the GIT cells so that there is energy for digesting and help absorb nutrients from food, as well as preparing the waste for elimination. The health and balance of this ecosystem is incredibly important. More and more research is showing that the health of our GIT bacteria not only effect local digestive health but can also have further reaching connections with our mental and emotional wellbeing. So where does it all begin?

Your entrance to the world is where your first colonisation of good bacteria comes from. Vaginal births introduce beneficial bacteria to the baby, including Lactobacillus and Prevotella species as they pass through the vagina. This is the first step to setting up healthy GIT and immune function for the newborn, laying down a solid foundation to the rapid immune developments to follow. Don’t panic if you or your child was born through caesarain section though. Our GIT is constantly evolving and there are lots of things that we can do to help build up a healthy ecosystem over time.

Each individual’s ecosystem of gut flora consisting of an astounding amount of different species. It is still early days in understanding the specific roles of many bacteria found in our digestive tracts however some identified to play specific roles in your body include the synthesis or activation of some vitamins and reabsorption of bile salts and other substances produced in the liver.

There are many things that can alter this delicate ecosystem. This can include regular consumption of red meats, excess dairy, grains, sugar, processed foods, soft drinks, coffee, alcohol and antibiotics. We all know that there is a time and a place for antibiotics, however they can have a devestating effect on the balance of your gut flora. Anti-biotics can work wonderfully in reducing and erradicating so called ‘bad’ bacteria but often do much the same against the ‘good’. It is very important to build up your gut again after antibiotic use for up to 6 months after each course.

Article by Damian Harrison, Naturopath from Chamomile Naturopathy , Bellingen.