Learn how beneficial bacteria help ensure proper digestion and optimal digestive health
You probably don't realize it, but your digestive system is teeming with over 100 trillion bacteria. But it's not as scary as it sounds. Sure, among these bacteria are the bacterial "bad guys," that can cause a whole host of health problems.
But your GI tract is also home to many beneficial probiotic bacteria, that are absolutely essential for your health and survival. Probiotic bacteria, for example, help digest the food you eat and break down dairy products for easier digestion. They help to fight viruses. They even bolster our immune system by lining our intestines and forming a protective barrier that prevents pathogens from entering the body. (Read more on how probiotic bacteria keep you healthy.)
Every day there is an ongoing battle taking place in your digestive tract between the friendly bacteria trying to create a healthy environment and the bad bacteria trying to establish dominance. And when the bad bacteria strains begin to outnumber and overwhelm the probiotic good guys, a bacterial imbalance occurs and leads to any number of digestive problems including belching, bloating, gas pains, constipation, diarrhea—or worse.
For example, the bacterium Helicobacter pylori resides in the gut of 50 percent of the world's population, and like thousands of other strains of bacteria, H. pylori doesn't seem to cause problems when its numbers remain in balance with other bacterial flora. It is only when this bacterium multiplies unchecked, creating a bacterial imbalance, that H. pylori can cause ulcers.
Of course, there’s no way to completely eliminate the bad bacteria from our systems. But improving the balance between the good and bad bacteria in our body can ease many types of digestive discomfort and, in general, boost overall health.