For many years, bacteria have been labeled as the bad guys.
Advertisements pushed products to rid your home and body of “dangerous” bacteria, toothpastes and mouthwashes designed to kill off all bacteria. Even the sanitization of our foods (our ancestors did not evolve with sanitary kitchens, packaged foods and supermarkets) have created an environment that suppresses the healthy and natural relationship that we have had with bacteria for years uncounted.
But bacteria and the human body go hand-in-hand. In fact, the number of bacterial cells outnumber human cells. In any human body, there are more of them than there are of “us.” In a way, that viewpoint is a part of the problem, in reality it is not a division. It is not an “us” versus “them” relationship. It is really all US–as bacteria and human cells lock together and work hand-in-hand to form the human experience we call life.
You should think of your bacteria as an organ, like the heart or lungs, rather than as rogue invaders or barbarians at the gate.
At birth, the mother’s bacteria pass to her child as the child moves through the birth canal (Babies born by caesarean do not pick up the bacteria and so are prone to digestive ills and infections). In the first few years of life, a child’s bacteria develop both in diversity and in quantity. In fact, studies have shown that poor early gut bacteria establishment can have a lasting health impact on health well into adulthood.
Is it any wonder that modern diet, overly clean homes, lack of exposure to the outdoors might underlie the surge in childhood illnesses and disease?
Now, none of this is to say that all bacteria are good, just as not all bacteria are bad.
This is further complicated by the fact that “good” bacteria can become “bad” simply because they overgrow and so create an unhealthy balance. A good example is the oral cavity where an abundance of sugars and carbohydrates stimulate the overgrowth of certain strains resulting in tooth decay and gum disease.
From manufacturing vitamins in your gut to fighting off invaders, bacteria play an important and critical role in your life.
So important, in fact, that you could (and should) adopt the attitude of putting their care way upfront in your life.
If you see to their health as a priority then you will have far less to tend to when it comes to your own health and life. Think of that the next time you shop or plan a meal, adding the fibrous foods that they like and some fermented foods to the mix.
After all, taking care of them is taking care of you.