Our intestinal flora - microflora actually, the bacteria in the gut.

Around 500 species in our intestinal flora, accounting for about half the weight of our faeces, ten times more in number than the cells of the human body.
A force to be reckoned with, including lots we can't easily do without.

Germ free animals can apparently do well, living in a germ free environment and on special food, but life's not like that. Veillonellae, Clostridia, Staphylococci, Proteus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are some of the bad germs. We need to be able to deal with them⁴.

The bowel apparently has about the same surface area as a tennis court. It's little wonder that most of our immune system is located in the gastrointestinal system. It's our front line of defense.
No surprise then, that breakdown of the intestinal barrier function ("leaky gut") is a very common part of disease pathogenesis.

Beneficial bacteria include bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus. Probiotic yogurt has these added¹, and is quite pleasant.

Supplementing with probiotics⁵ is only part of the story. They need food as well, and that means fibre. Commercially available  prebiotics ³ have this, derived from chicory, psyllium etc. Good old fashioned fruit and vegetables are what I'd recommend.

Good germs, bad germs², fungi, yeasts and viruses are all continually jockeying for space and food in our gut. All sorts of things can swing the balance in favor of one or other.

People with lactose intolerance are acutely aware of what happens when the wrong type of food arrives in the large bowel. The lactose is fermented as it wasn't absorbed in the small bowel.
People with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth don't have to wait for the food to get to their colon. Any fermentable food may be used by those bugs.

Taking probiotics with antibiotics is a good precaution, as the latter kill good and bad alike, leaving room and food for yeasts like monilia.

Indigestion isn't just discomfort, but also poor functioning of the digestive system. One result is delivery of partly digested food to the intestinal flora in our colon, which can encourage some of the less beneficial germs.

We are what we have eaten, digested, absorbed and utilized.

Eating in a relaxed fashion, chewing thoroughly, limiting meal sizes, food combining for easy digestion are all useful lifestyle measures.

Stomach flu and norovirus gastroenteritis

Stomach virus symptoms can range from a 24 hour stomach bug to what I call stomach flu, with vomiting and/or diarrhoea plus aches generally, fever and lethargy.

The main message is it's highly contagious.

If you use vitamin C megadose as sodium ascorbate powder in warm water, it is used in "bowel tolerance doses". This is almost enough to come out the other end as diarrhoea. I understand that you can tell the difference between the diarrhoea from the illness, which is smelly, and that from too much vitamin C which is odorless.

Food poisoning is very short lived, lasting only as long as it takes to eliminate the contaminated food from our body. If someone comes in with a 24 hour history, it is not food poisoning.

Notes and references for intestinal flora

1. Probiotics added to foods include yeasts such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. boulardii and filamentous fungi such as Aspergillus oryzae, but lactic acid bacteria are used most commonly.

Lactic acid bacteria are found in large numbers in the healthy gut and in yoghurt (milk coagulated by their fermentation, which changes lactose sugar into lactic acid.)

Yoghurt is produced using two starter cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillis delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. These don't survive stomach acid well, so other lactic acid bacteria are later added which do survive.

Three strains of lactic acid bacteria commonly added to yoghurt are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium species, and Lactobacillus casei.

These bacteria are likely to be in pretty poor shape however, due to contact with the lactic acid, antibacterial substances in added fruit such as blueberries and increased osmotic pressure from added sugar.

Sachets of freeze dried organisms are a better way of delivering large numbers of viable bacteria.

2. Less good and potentially troublesome germs include Bacteroides, Streptococci, Escherichia coli and Enterococci.

Bifidobacteria predominate in the gut of newborn infants, (95% of the microbes then.) By adult life, they are down to 25%. They decline in numbers as part of the ageing process, while Clostridia and Enterobacteria increase, shifting the balance in favour of potentially harmful bacteria.

Babies delivered by caesarian section miss out on the good inoculum and instead get unfriendly bacteria from the hospital environment. Supplements of Bifidobacterium infantis NLS super strain are very important here.

3.     FOS is a white powder with half the sweetness of sucrose, non-digestible by us but utilized by some intestinal flora.

The beneficial bacteria can be aided by this, but so can Klebsiella and some yeasts, so probably not something to go overboard on.

4. And we need them to be able to do this. We are born Th2 dominant, and need the challenge of exposure to germs to convert to the adult balance between Th1 and Th2 lymphocytes which enables us to fight infections.

5. Most probiotics are transient intestinal flora. Some are retarded in transit by adherence to mucus and/or ability to multiply very rapidly, giving them a more prolonged effect. None of them persist permanently, so regular supply in food or supplements is needed.

With so much food today pasteurized, sterilized, irradiated, washed, disinfected and cooked to destroy disease causing germs, the supply of good germs from food may be limited.

If you can obtain milk direct from a healthy cow, it is much better for you than pasteurized milk. If you grow your own vegetables and have excess at times, do some preserving by lactose fermentation.

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Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria, prebiotics are food substances which they live on.


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FOS stands for fructose oligosaccharides - short chains of sugar molecules

Th2 cells are thymus derived helper lymphocytes class 2

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