People hear the word bacteria and immediately it conjures up an association with illness or dirty conditions. And that may be true, to a point, but some bacteria are extremely beneficial and some we just could not live without.
What germaphobes and those fascinated with all the antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal products in the marketplace don’t realize is that much of the bacteria in and on our bodies is necessary for our health.
The term “probiotics” has been bandied about the past few years with increasing frequency but do people actually understand that it is referring to healthy bacteria?
Our Bodies Host a Multitude of Bacteria
Bacteria basically live all over and inside us. Three areas where bacteria reside in the highest concentrations are the mouth, skin, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Those found in the mouth are mostly from food particles that get stuck in between your teeth. As in most cases of bacterial accumulation in the body, it’s all about balance. An overabundance of oral bacteria can lead to gingivitis, plaque buildup, and other dental problems.
Bacteria on the skin help maintain the body’s largest organ, protecting it from external, pathogenic organisms from colonizing on the surface of a person’s skin. The “weapons” the good bacteria on our skin uses include secreting chemicals, competing for resources, or stimulating the skin’s response against the invader. Good bacteria on our skin fight off conditions like dermatitis, acne, rosacea, and more. Children pick up their first bacteria literally “on the way out” of their mother during vaginal births, resulting in the earliest protection against skin-based infections. Overuse of antibacterial hand sanitizers, soaps, and creams threaten the healthy balance of bacteria on our skin.
Much has been written about the balance of bacteria and other living microorganisms in our GI tract or gut. Experts are still working on how consuming probiotics (good bacteria that enter the gut after being consumed orally) can improve a person’s health. Overuse of antibiotics can disturb the balance of bacteria in our gut, resulting in further illness.
Our bodies rely on all these naturally occurring bacteria to maintain good health and our ability to resist disease. In recent years, we have seen a rise in GI disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, gluten allergies, and celiac disease. When harmful bacteria is not kept in check by good bacteria, it could increase the risk of other conditions such diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and colon cancer.
If your system is out of whack or symptoms like inflammation are constantly bothering you, contact the GI team at Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates. Call them at (717) 245-2228 or use the convenient request an appointment form.