Bacteria — good or bad? What do our bodies need to maintain good health?

Let’s consider an interesting fact about microbes. An adult human being consists of ten times as many microbial cells as mammalian cells (our own body cells) – in fact the weight of these microbes is about 1.25kg. Since this enormous number of bacteria can survive in a healthy human adult, their existence implies a symbiotic relationship with human beings. Ironically, the germ theory states that many diseases are caused by the presence, and actions, of specific micro-organisms. Where does the truth lie?

Some of the deadliest diseases are caused by bacteria that ordinarily reside at various sites in the healthy human. Examples would include pneumonia, which can be caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, and meningitis, which can be caused by the meningococcus bacterium. Less threatening illnesses can also be the result of the transfer of bacteria inappropriate to the site of infection – for example, the introduction of E. Coli (which normally resides in the bowel) to the urethra and bladder often results in cystitis, or a urinary tract infection.

On the other hand, bacteria can also offer enormous benefits. In health, our natural (indigenous) bacteria can provide us with as much as 10% of our energy requirements, they can supply a range of vitamins, and they play a key role in the development of our immune systems and mucosal surfaces. They also protect us from exogenous (those from outside the body) pathogens, and are vital for correct stool formation.

So, how can we populate our bodies with the correct balance of bacteria, and persuade them to stay where nature intended? If we can answer these questions, we are on the road to good health.

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Your body is a highly complex world in miniature, reacting to outside threats, and capable of creating its own defences to maintain a natural balance.

Let’s begin the story before we are born. The 9 months of gestation is the only period that we are (generally) free of microbes. Introduction of bacteria begins during delivery, as bacteria from the birth canal tend to populate the oral cavity of the infant. During the first hours of life, we come into contact with microbes from our mothers’ skin, respiratory tract and gastro-intestinal tract, and we are also exposed to other microbes from humans attendant at the birth, from delivery instruments, and also from the environment. You might wonder why this doesn’t overwhelm the infant, but the fact is that only a limited number of species can permanently colonise different anatomical sites. Also, at each site, there is a predominant group of microbes.

One further aspect of bacterial population at any anatomical site in the body is that it is ‘dynamic’. Different areas have different properties, for example there is mucus in the airways, or acid in the stomach, or bile in the liver. Also, the presence of one type of bacterium results in specific conditions in terms of metabolic products, for example. This then induces a different colony to flourish, which is ‘superimposed’, and this then adjusts the conditions further … and so on. 

A healthy (non-toxic) infant, with a good immune system, already has the potential for abundant health over the years to come. But what can go wrong?

If a baby is born with residues of heavy metals for instance, the immune system has been compromised from conception. The immune system may not be alerted to the fact that there is an inappropriate overgrowth of a particular bacterial colony, or possibly there might be a half-hearted attempt to redress the balance. In either case, the indigenous microbe balance begins to adjust and then infections can occur.

Ear infections or chest infections are not uncommon in infants and young children these days. Let’s look at an example. A young child has a cold. The body responds by producing more mucus to rid the body of the virus. The increased mucus formation alters the conditions in the lungs, and there is sudden and rapid overgrowth of, for example, Streptococcus pneumoniae. It starts to gain the upper hand. If the immune system is weakened (as a result of heavy metals, for example), then there is a poor attempt to bring things into balance again. The child becomes feverish in a further attempt ‘kill the bug’. A trip to the doctor confirms a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are prescribed. The child makes a miraculous recovery … for the time being. But, let’s examine the real picture. What’s going on behind the scenes?

The antibiotic kills bacteria – but which? If the child recovers, certainly it was the correct antibiotic to kill the causative germ. But antibiotics cannot target just one specific bacterium. They are like a cluster bomb – and some are worse than others. What happens to the bacteria that help to maintain health? They, too, are wiped out to varying degrees.

There are two main consequences. The first is that there is now more room for other pathogens to thrive (and, in the case of antibiotics, this is often Candida), and secondly, the beneficial elements of the now-dead, good bacteria no longer exist.

Many problems associated with the immune system can be associated with the gut, since about 75% of immune function involves the gastro-intestinal surfaces. Good immune response relies on an intact mucosal barrier, which is being constantly challenged by pathogens. There are many hundreds of different species of bacteria in the healthy gut, all of which are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Once this population becomes out of balance, health begins to decline – not only because we lose the beneficial properties of good bacteria so that bowel function becomes impaired (with all the attendant problems), but because the mucosal wall begins to break down and further damage continues. The function of digestion and assimilation of nutrients begins to fail. How can we remain healthy if we don’t absorb the correct nutrients? How can we be healthy if we don’t excrete waste appropriately?

Rather than stimulating the immune system in this failing gut wall, the continuing degeneration and ingress of pathogens is overwhelming to the immune system and so it no longer ‘comes up to the mark’. 

For optimal health, we must maintain the natural indigenous flora at all costs. Once the natural population is out of balance, how do we go about (re)introducing many hundreds of different species to the gut? Certainly probiotics are not the complete answer, since they contain only a very small number of different bacterial species.

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Is there another way?

FCT aims to restore the immune system in the first instance, but of equal importance is the need to diagnose very precisely the EXACT causative organism causing an infection. Once any overgrowth is reduced, a healthy population of bacteria is resotred. Remember that at all times, a healthy cross-section of bacteria is absolutely essential to good health.