Your body is inhabited by thousands of types of bacteria. While we may think all bacterial infections are bad, there are many good bacteria that help us stay healthy. The bacteria environment in our digestive tract is commonly referred to as the intestinal microbiome or the gut microbiota.
Many of these good bacteria are in our digestive tract. These bacteria help keep our digestive tract at the right acidity, they help breakdown food into more digestible forms, and they help keep bad bacteria from taking over our gut. Yes, there are “bad” bacteria in your digestive tract too. Bad bacteria do things like cause diarrhea and hurt our immune system. Our body tries to keep all of the bacteria in balance so you can stay healthy. These bacterial dynamics have far-reaching effects, including affecting our energy metabolism. The biodiversity balance can be influenced genetics, diet, antibiotic use, surgery, and many other factors.
This is one of the reasons why so much of the immune system is in our digestive tract. The balance of bacteria in our gut is constantly changing, and we are always coming in contact with more bacteria (and other microorganisms) in what we eat and drink. We can take advantage of this to expose our body to the “good” bacteria, which help us maintain a health digestive tract. You’ve probably heard of “probiotics”—these are bacteria which can be beneficial to our digestive system. Probiotic supplements seek to maintain or reestablish the natural balance in our immune system, potentially helping us to stay healthy, have more energy, and feel good.