Fabulous Flora: Gut Health

Since Friday we’ll be talking about animals guts and such, I thought we’d cover the human gut. There are between 300 and 1000 different kinds of bacteria (or flora) that live in the gut. Most people think of bacteria as bad, but these flora play an important part of human health. Let’s look at some of the functions of bacteria. Through a fermentation process called saccharolytic fermentation they turn carbs into short chain fatty acids (SCFA). This produces acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. All of these provide a useful energy source and help to absorb minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and iron). Acetic acid is used by the muscles. Propionic assists in ATP production. Butyric acid provides energy to gut cells. This fermentation process lowers pH in the colon, which prevents proliferation of harmful bacteria.  Bacteria have also been associated with helping prevent allergies (those with allergies tend to be lacking in a certain bacteria strand). All of this is developed at birth. Flora isn’t something your born with, it starts to develop right after birth (by the age of two flora is the same as an adult). It helps with immune function as well by fighting harmful bacteria, but leaving alone healthy bacteria. Foods (such as fiber, fruits, and vegetable skins) encourage growth of flora. Also eating a wide variety of foods and experimenting (not just eating raw but cooking in different styles) will help to expose you to more bacteria and gut flora.

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