There are approximately 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) microorganisms that reside in a normal human gut. To put it in perspective, this is 10 times more bacteria than all the cells in the human body. This massive population is comprised of over 400 diverse bacterial species.
For such an abundant and diverse universe of living things within our own bodies, we have only recently begun to comprehend how important the gut flora is in overall human health and disease.
The gut flora plays a critical role in a number of areas: :
- the promotion of normal gastrointestinal functions
- comprises more than 75% of our immune system
- provides protection from infection
- regulates metabolism
Dysregulated gut flora has also been linked to a wide range of diseases:
- autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s,
- inflammatory bowel disease
- type 1 diabetes
Research has determined the common denominators in the “Modern Lifestyle” that have directly contributed to unhealthy gut flora:
- Medications like birth control
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Chronic stress
- Chronic infections
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods
- Diets low in fermentable fibers
- Dietary toxins like wheat
- Industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
Antibiotics are particularly harmful to gut flora because they are engineered to kill bacteria. The problem is not that they kill the harmful bacteria but that they kill the beneficial bacteria as well. Several recent studies demonstrate the use of antibiotics has a profoundly negative impact on the gut flora diversity as well as an actual shift in its composition. Without intervention, this diversity is not recovered.
Two key factors that can influence infant health is whether the child was breastfed and whether she was born to a mother with bad gut flora. In those circumstances, the infant is more likely to develop unhealthy gut bacteria. These early diﬀerences in gut flora may predict future obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases like eczema/psoriasis, depression and other health problems.