Bacteria and the Health of the Immune System

November 21, 2013 — Leave a comment
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Good health is dependent upon the amount of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

The health of the immune system is dependent upon the health of the digestive track; and the health of the digestive track is dependent upon the balance of its microflora or flora. The flora is the mixture of microorganisms that live in your intestine – bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeasts, etc.

The good and bad bacteria are in a constant battle for living space within the digestive track.To have a healthy immune system there needs to be a ratio of 85% good bacteria over harmful bacteria.

Few people are aware that the health of your immune system depends upon the health of your digestive track. There is a whole lot more going on in the digestive track than just digesting food and disposing of waste. For most people it is a novel concept to think of the gut as an integral part of the immune system. However, if your digestive track is not healthy, then your immune system cannot operate at its optimum. It will be suppressed. There is overwhelming scientific research validating the fact that the proper ratio of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract is essential for your immune system to function properly.

An estimated 80% of your immune system is located in the area surrounding the gastrointestinal tract. Science has validated the fact that beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract supports immune reactions throughout the body.

The first to observe the positive role played by certain bacteria in your digestive system was a Russian scientist, Dr. Elie Metchnikoff. In 1908 he wrote The Prolongation of Life. In it Dr. Metchnikoff recognized that certain white blood cells ingest and destroy dangerous bacteria.  Today we recognize this immune cell as the macrophage.

Dr. Metchnikoff received the Noble Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work concerning important functions of the immune system. Concurrent with his work on the immune system, he studied the dietary habits of Bulgarian peasants who lived very healthy and noticeably longer lives. To reach 100 years of age was not uncommon.

Dr. Metchnikoff was looking for a way to prolong life and improve immune function. He found that this group of Bulgarian peasants daily consumed large amounts of fermented foods, especially milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria (yogurt). Based on these facts, Dr. Metchnikoff deduced that the consumption of fermented milk “seeds” the intestine with harmless lactic-acid (beneficial) bacteria and decreases the intestinal pH making it more acidic.

Dr. Metchnikoff reasoned this acidic environment would hold back the growth of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria. He was the first scientist to recognize the need for restoring the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

His research showed that disease producing bacteria in the colon produced toxins that, when absorbed into the blood stream, caused the poisoning of the entire system. Metchnikoff began to include milk fermented with bacteria in his diet . He called this bacteria “Bulgarian Bacillus” (Lactobacillus bulgarius ). He found this fermented drink benefited his health. Friends soon followed his example, and physicians began prescribing “sour milk” for their patients. Dr. Metchnikoff understood how the immune system functions and was able to make the scientific connection linking lactic acid bacteria to improved immunity.


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