Pop quiz: do you know how many cells are in your body? The answer is close to 100 trillion. However, the number of cells that belong to your body proper are outnumbered by bacteria within your body by almost 10 to 1. Woah.
Let that settle in for a minute. In reality, you are less of a single organism and more of a symbiotic colony of a number of different ones. Even in the body cells proper, organelles called mitochondria have their own set of DNA and are effectively a different organism.
Yet most of the focus on medicine throughout history has been focused on the observable. Only recently has the function of the bacteria within us become a popular topic of study in health sciences.
The lion’s share of this bacteria lives within the gut, the area including the large and small intestines. They are essential to many roles within digestion and without them, we would not be able to process food correctly. We need their enzymes to break down certain foods or absorb vitamins and nutrients.
Another key role that the gut flora plays is in the protection of the body against threats. The gut is one of the most contaminated environments in the body and the potential for bad bacteria to build up and cause illness is always present. The bacteria within your gut can protect against negative bacteria and change the environment to prevent infection.
To the naked eye, the intestines seem to be a more or less solid barrier. However, on a cellular level this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The cells of the small and large intestinal walls are known as epithelium. Between them they are held together by what is known as tight junctions which, for the most part, remain tight.
However, a number of things can cause the tight junctions to break apart. Considering the incredibly dynamic nature of what passes through the guy. When these junctions leak, the incredibly septic contents of predigested food and bacteria can leak into the massive amount of blood vessels which surround the gut. This can lead to massive inflammation in the body at large and even brain problems.
The connection between your gut flora and gut permeability can be good or evil. There are thousands of different types of bacteria in your gut at any time competing some resources, each with a different diet. Which ones become the most common depends on what kind of fuel you give them.
If you don’t protect the good bacteria in your gut, it leaves the door open to all sorts of bad ones. The name for this condition is SIBO -small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. When we kill the bacteria in our gut with toxins, depleting them of good, healthy fuel or by taking antibiotics, we effectively start a power struggle for what bacteria will take over.
How can we choose our survival foods to stop this? Stay tuned for the next part of this series.