We can’t see or feel it. But inside our gastrointestinal tract (aka the gut) lives an interconnected system of microorganisms totaling approximately 100 trillion cells housing up to 2000 types of bacteria.
What’s incredible is that this invisible colony living inside our guts, which also includes fungi (yeast) and viruses too, collectively weighs about the same as our brain at approximately 3 pounds.
Bacteria conjure up feelings of wickedness, but most of the bacteria in our guts are there to help us. In fact, this network of “good bugs” makes up 70-80% of our immune system and is our frontline defense against harmful pathogens and microbes.
The microorganisms from this complex system, known as the “gut microbiome,” primarily live in the large and small intestine, but we can also find them in other parts of the body, including in the nose, mouth, and skin. And they have a variety of complex effects on our health.
Not only do they reduce the pH of our guts to make it more unfavorable to bad microbes, but many also secrete antimicrobial compounds and block them from receptor sites in the gut.
When gut conditions aren’t ideal for the beneficial bacteria, the bad guys can crowd out the good.
Known as dysbiosis, this can cause a cascade of health issues and unpleasant symptoms, including digestive upset and yeast infections.
Although research is ongoing, an unhealthy gut caused by a low diversity of good gut bacteria may be a risk factor for a variety of diseases.
The good news is that there are certain things you can do to keep the good bacteria in your gut flourishing so you can get the benefits they provide.
Every day our bodies are bombarded with a variety of environmental toxins and harmful chemicals in the air and water. But they are also lurking in our food, skincare, toiletries, and homes. Pollutants like pesticides and heavy metals can have a negative effect on our gut health and the beneficial bacteria in our guts.