How Bacteria Keep Us Healthy — and May Do More Than That

Image: VinothChandar

If you’re an adult of a certain age, you likely learned that bacteria are bad. But an expanding pool of evidence demonstrates that certain bacteria not only protect us from disease, they can even help us lose weight. Here’s how you can put the power of good bacteria to work for you through prebiotics.

The Key to Health?

The human body plays host to hundreds of bacterial species, according to a 2013 New York Times article by Michael Pollan. These bacteria — there are about 10 “resident microbes” for every single human cell — perform a variety of functions.

Some are harmless, some are dangerous pathogens and some provide benefits in exchange for living on or in our bodies. Sometimes known as the “second genome,” it turns out bacteria may exert “an influence on our health as great and possibly even greater than the genes we inherit from our parents,” according to Pollan.

In fact, “it turns out that the key to health is fermentation in the large intestine” of healthy bacteria, Pollan notes. And the best way to do that is through prebiotic fiber.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

As the body of evidence supporting the role of the human microbiome in overall health expands, Pollan observed the researchers who participated in the initiative — called the American Gut project — relied on plant fiber to produce the desired health benefits rather than ingesting live bacteria (probiotics) through foods such as yogurt.

“In general [researchers] seemed to place less faith in probiotics (which few of them use) than in prebiotics — foods likely to encourage the growth of ‘good bacteria’ already present”, writes Pollan.

The reason? Prebiotic fiber fertilizes the healthy bacteria already living in the human gut and is proven effective for correcting the bacterial mix. Probiotics, which are live, healthy bacteria, often die in the stomach acid before getting to work in the lower colon.

What a Healthy Bacterial Mix Can Do for You

Researchers have only begun to scratch the surface of how bacteria affect human health. But if the leaders at the BioFrontiers Institute and the American Gut project are to be believed, people with balanced microbiota are less likely to suffer from obesity. They also enjoy a boosted immune system because healthy bacteria fight unwanted pathogens.

The point? Prebiotic fiber encourages disease-fighting good bacteria to proliferate while stifling the production of unhealthy pathogens. Read more about Prebiotin prebiotic fiber and find out how a plant-based, low-calorie supplement can improve your overall health.

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