Microbiota is the term used to describe the almost impossible to count bacteria that live in everyone’s gastrointestinal tract, or gut. Estimates put the number of bacteria at around 100 trillion; let that sink in a bit. Over 100 trillion bacteria live in our gut making them more plentiful than the number of cells that make up our entire body by a factor of 10 to 1!
In a healthy gut, about 85% of the total microbiota is ‘good’ bacteria and the remaining 15% or so are ‘bad’ bacteria; this is how nature has set it up. Having bad bacteria in the gut isn’t a problem necessarily because the good bacteria keep them in check; ensuring population control of the undesirable microbiota by releasing chemicals such as lactic acid and other compounds that prevent the bad ones from taking over. Due to the large percentage of good bacteria, they help to crowd out the mischievous potentially problematic bacteria, fungi, and yeasts, helping to prevent an overgrowth. It’s only when this delicate balance is disturbed that health can suffer as the bad bacteria can multiply; a condition called dysbiosis.
Microbiota imbalances have been attributed to:
a diet high in sugar & low in fiber
food borne illness, a.k.a. ‘food poisoning’
alcohol & recreational drug use
birth control pills
common medications like antibiotics, ibuprofen, ASA, Naproxen, corticosteroids like prednisone, acid reducers like Prevacid, Nexium, Zantac, Pepcid etc
The distinction between probiotics and microbiota is subtle but important. It distinguishes between the bacteria that colonize and are native to the gut following birth [microbiota] to those that can be consumed, either as a food or supplement for health benefits [probiotics]. Probiotics therefore are healthy bacteria that are consumed in order to augment, and enhance, the existing bacteria that all people have.
The definition used by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations which has been adopted by most producers of high quality probiotic food products and supplements, and by the Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, is:
“probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host”
Clinically-proven probiotics have been shown to manage many health conditions not the least of which is antibiotic associated diarrhea and antibiotic associated C difficile colitis infection. Other benefits include reducing the risk for, and treatment of travellers’ diarrhea, radiation associated diarrhea, pouchitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, candidiasis, IBS and more.
Download my whitepaper entitled Probiotics. Healthy Bacteria That Do A Body Good. Your Key to Digestive and Overall Health