Gut Bacteria and Probiotics Part 1:
What are these and where do they come from?
I have recently had a few questions from my clients about gut bacteria and probiotics so I decided it was time write about them, and have some fun exploring them in the process…
Essentially, gut bacteria and probiotics are ‘good bacteria’ or ‘good bugs’. So despite being bacteria, these ones are generally seen as the ‘good’ kind – the kind that we want to have in our digestive tracts! Keep in mind that our digestive tract’s healthy function and well-being is hugely dependent on the bacteria that inhabit its space. So, we want bacteria in our guts, and we want them to be the kind that will work for us and work with us, and in exchange they get to inhabit a warm and moist space and receive various nutrients in return to feed them. Most of you would be aware that probiotics or ‘good bacteria’ can be purchased as a powder or as capsules that are then taken most frequently orally.
So where do these good gut bacteria actually come from, given that our digestive tract before birth is pretty much a sterile environment?
Well for starters, generally, the bacteria that first get to inhabit our digestive tract, come from the contact with the vaginal walls during the delivery of babies. The vagina is an area that is highly populated with bacteria and there is no avoiding this first exposure – unless of course you have a caesarian birth. The second exposure to bugs comes from breast milk, formula or food and objects that have some form of bacteria on them, that get into contact with the mouth and then enter the digestive tract. And so we get our first series of bacteria to populate our guts as babies, and though genetics play a small role, mainly it is the environmental factors that determine the bugs in our guts. And wait there is more….
The human gut also known as the gastrointestinal tract, is inhabited by approximately 100 trillion microorganisms (most of them bacteria, but there are also viruses, fungi and protozoa). This is what forms our microbiome or collection of microorganisms and is often seen as a ‘virtual organ’ of the body!
So where do bottled probiotics come from? Bottled probiotics or ones that can be purchased as a powder or capsule, also have an interesting origin. Many of them are originally sourced from faeces (poo) or from someone’s bowels, or in some cases from human breast milk. Keep in mind that these have then been cultured in labs over many bacterial generations so that there is no actual original ‘source’ tissue left, only the bacteria itself. Essentially, all gut bacteria and probiotics come from fermentation processes as this is how the bacteria grow and populate.
Now reading this has possibly put you completely off gut bacteria and probiotics, but keep in mind as we said at the start: your digestive tract’s healthy function and well being hinges a lot on having healthy and happy bacteria.
Look out for Part 2 on gut bacteria and probiotics to find out how these tiny bugs can be such a huge support for us.
And check this article out on Gut health and food cravings!