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Gut Flora Definition, Function, and Why is it Important?

Gut Flora Definition, Function, and Why is it Important?

Most people might think that bacteria is harmful, but inside your digestive tract are lots of good bacteria that contribute to your digestion and your overall health. This bacteria, along with other microorganisms found in the digestive tract, compose our gut flora.

Gut Flora: Definition

Our gut flora is essentially all of the bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that reside in our digestive system, whether they’re good or bad. Our bodies contain trillions of bacteria, but our digestive tract has the most abundant population.

These days, scientists have discovered just how important our gut flora is. And aside from playing a role in how we digest food, it is believed that gut flora does more than that. In fact, some even think of our gut flora as an additional organ, or a supporting system because of the impact it has on our body’s processes.

Interesting Digestive System Facts You Should Know

Gut Flora: Function

Our gut flora has a number of functions in our body, with scientists discovering more and more about it everyday. But so far, here are some of the functions that our gut flora has:

Digestion

First and foremost, the bacteria in a stomach play a large role when it comes to digestion. While our body produces enzymes as well as stomach acids that break down food, bacteria also helps in this regard.

In particular, bacteria can help digest more complicated starches and complex carbohydrates. Some of the food that we eat “ferments” in our digestive tract, where it is broken down by bacteria. Once it’s broken down, our body can readily absorb these nutrients.

Bacteria are also responsible for producing some vitamins our body needs. Bacteria in our gut are useful in synthesizing vitamin K, as well as different B vitamins.

One example is vitamin B12, which isn’t found in plants and animals and is only created by bacteria. This means that aside from vitamin supplements, the only other way to get it is from our gut flora.

Protection from disease

Another function of our gut flora is immunity. Some types of bacteria found in our digestive tract can stimulate immune cells, and help break down toxic compounds in food and drink. Aside from this, the bacteria in our digestive tract can also fight off harmful bacteria.

Having a healthy gut flora contributes to stronger immune systems in adulthood, and is particularly important during the development of our immune systems. This is why it is important for babies to develop a healthy gut flora early on in life.

In fact, one procedure, called fecal transplantation, essentially takes good bacteria from another person’s gut and transplants it to another person. This can help treat conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, and other diseases that cause inflammation of the digestive tract.

Top 10 Vitamins and Minerals to Boost Immunity

Gut-brain axis

Another more recent discovery is with regard to the gut-brain axis. This is essentially a connection between our gut and our brain.

Scientists believe that this connection can have something to do with our mental health. It’s possible that having a healthy gut flora can improve our mental health, as well as assist in our brain function.

However, more research still needs to be done in this regard.

How Do You Keep Your Gut Flora Healthy?

Here are some ways to help improve your gut health and keep your gut flora healthy:

  • Eat probiotic foods, which are foods that contain live bacteria.
  • Also eat prebiotic foods, which help promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
  • Eat less red meat and fatty foods, as these can inhibit the growth of good bacteria.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unless they are prescribed. Antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria and can cause problems when taken without a prescription.
  • Be sure to get enough rest, and manage your stress. Being well-rested helps keep your gut flora healthy.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your gut flora will remain strong and healthy.

Learn more about Digestive Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Bacteria in the Intestine, Helpful Residents or Enemies from Within? | Infection and Immunity, https://iai.asm.org/content/76/8/3360, Accessed March 1, 2021

The Microbiome | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/, Accessed March 1, 2021

Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/, Accessed March 1, 2021

Can gut bacteria improve your health? – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health, Accessed March 1, 2021

Gut Bacteria, https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/gut-bacteria, Accessed March 1, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Mar 14
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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