100 Trillion Bacteria in Your Gut: Learn How to Keep the Good Kind There

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October 18, 2003 | 118,697 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Your gut is the frontline of your immune system, home to countless bacteria, both beneficial and pathogenic. These bacteria outnumber the cells in your body by at least 10 to one, and maintaining the ideal balance of bacteria forms the foundation for good health-physical, mental and emotional
  • Most disease originates in your digestive system. This includes both physical and mental disease. Once you heal and seal your gut lining and make your digestive system work properly again, disease symptoms will typically resolve
  • Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has developed a highly successful nutritional program called GAPS protocol; the GAPS protocol restores the integrity of your gut lining by providing your body with the necessary building blocks needed to restore balance to your gut flora

By Dr. Mercola

You probably don't think about your gut very often but this may make you start--the bacteria in your bowels outnumber the cells in your body by a factor of 10 to one. This gut flora is a major player of your immune system, which of course, is your body's natural defense system that keeps you healthy. In other words, the health of your body is largely tied into the health of your gut, and it's hard to have one be healthy if the other is not.

One of the reasons why your gut has so much influence on your health has to do with the 100 trillion bacteria--about three pounds worth--that line your intestinal tract. This is an extremely complex living system that aggressively protects your body from outside offenders.

GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome

One of the leading experts in this field is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a Russian-trained neurologist and nutritionist with a full-time practice in the U.K. She treats children and adults with autism, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems, using her Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutrition Program. She cured her son's severe autism using this nutritional protocol.

The GAPS protocol is designed to restore the integrity of your gut lining by providing your body with the necessary building blocks needed for healthy enterocyte reproduction, and restoring balance to your gut flora. I have interviewed Dr. Campbell-McBride twice, and you can access those interviews at the following two links:

  1. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, July 31, 2011
  2. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, March 18, 2012

In terms of Gut and Physiology Syndrome, we're talking about all forms of autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as:

Multiple sclerosis Type 1 diabetes Rheumatoid arthritis Osteoarthritis
Lupus Crohn's disease Ulcerative colitis Chronic skin conditions
Kidney problems Urinary conditions Selenium Degenerative conditions
Chronic fatigue syndrome Fibromyalgia Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) Inflammatory bowel diseases

Healing Your Gut

If you are eating as many sugars as the typical American (about 100 pounds per year, according to Dr. Richard Johnson, author of The Fat Switch then you are feeding the "bad" bacteria, which are more likely to cause disease than promote health, rather than promoting the "good" bacteria that help protect you from disease. Exposure to chemicals will also contribute to this disruption in your gut microflora, and over time the imbalance will lead to illness.

A large part of the influence of the "bad" bacteria is on the intestinal lining (mucosal barrier), which is over 300 square meters, or about the size of a tennis court.

Fortunately, you can influence the composition of the bacteria in your gut by optimizing your diet and including naturally fermented foods such as fermented dairy and vegetables, and/or supplementing with a high-quality probiotic supplement. As written in a report in the October 2003 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "probiotics can act as partners of the defense system of the intestine."

Optimizing your gut flora (and that of your child) should be started very early in life, since many babies born today don't get a natural, healthy infusion of beneficial gut bacteria while they are born. The earlier this can be corrected, the healthier your child will remain. Bottle-feeding and antibiotics exact a heavy toll on your child's intestinal health, so breastfeed if at all possible. And if you take an antibiotic, it is crucial to "reseed' your gut with fermented foods and probiotics. If you aren't eating fermented foods, you most likely need to take a probiotic supplement on a regular basis, especially if you're eating a lot of processed foods.

Do You Really Need a Probiotics Supplement?

The typical American diet is so full of sugar and grains that--although I don't recommend taking a shopping bag full of supplements--nearly everyone can benefit from probiotics. I recommend probiotics to nearly all of our new patients, as it is a helpful start for their health recovery.

The best source of probiotic comes from naturally fermented foods, which should be your first choice. But if you decide to add a supplement, you should look for a high potency, multi-strain variety, which can be found in most nutrition stores. You can make your own foods from a probiotic starter culture that will give you even more bacteria than you can get in a supplement.  You can view Carol Barringer's video for more details

On a side note, probiotics are especially helpful when you are traveling in the event you get an infectious diarrhea. Typically, large doses of a high-quality probiotic--about one-half to one full bottle in one day--are quite useful for a rapid resolution of the diarrhea.