Food is Medicine Winter Feature, Part I: The Good and Bad Bacteria News

Are you killing the good bacteria in your gut?

There are over 3 trillion bacteria in your body. Trillions of microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites – all live together in your gastrointestinal tract. The intestines are home to most bacteria. Known as the “gut microbiota” or “gut flora”, healthy gut flora and unhealthy bacteria live collectively. The good bacteria in your intestines is directly linked to your overall health. Your healthy gut bacteria impact many aspects of health including protecting against acute and chronic illness, chronic fatigue, inflammation, mental health disorders and more.

One can maintain a healthy microbiome by eating a diverse diet comprised primarily of whole foods from plant sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, beans and whole grains.

In turn, you should avoid diet, lifestyle and environmental factors that negatively affect your gut bacteria.

Bacteria 101
Some of the typical kinds of bacteria living in your gut include: Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria or Proteobacteria (1, 2). Each bacteria group plays a role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth (3).

Good gut bacteria are responsible for the following:
* speeds digestion
* improves the immune system
* limits bad or harmful bacteria and parasites
* produces vitamin K, folate and short-chain fatty acids (4, 5)

Too much bad gut bacteria and not enough good bacteria results in dysbiosis (6, 7). Dysbiosis is defined as an imbalance in the flora located in the intestinal tract.

At Rhett Women’s Center, patients with stomach upset after eating, indigestion, GERD (reflux), heartburn, gas, lower belly pain, constipation, slow digestion, diarrhea or bloating are evaluated for dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis and a reduction in gut flora diversity have been linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer (8, 9, 10, 11). Dysbiosis can cause gut symptoms (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation) by:

  1. Too much of the “bad” bacteria. Overgrowth is caused by inflammatory bacteria or too much yeast or parasites.
  2. Microbial undergrowth. An under-abundance of all bacteria – good and bad – attacks the gut lining.
  3. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). SIBO occurs when the gut bacteria move from the large intestines to the small intestine.

To understand better your individual gut health and the balance of good and bad bacteria, please schedule a nutrition consultation or a functional medicine consultation. Our highly trained team of providers is trained to diagnosis and treat common digestive symptoms that disrupt overall health. Conduct a free online health assessment or book at or book a free “Are We a Good Fit” phone call 843-375-2210.

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