A healthy digestive tract has a complex ecosystem of about 400 bacteria. This natural microflora consists of both good (symbiotic) bacteria and bad (pathogenic or disease causing) bacteria.
The Role of Good Bacteria in the Intestinal Tract:
- The good bacteria prevent the intestinal tract from getting infected. They do this by preventing external pathogenic bacteria from attaching to the walls of the intestine and by consuming all the resources in the gastrointestinal tract themselves.
- They stall the growth of harmful bacteria that are responsible for acid reflux.
- They help with the metabolic process, specifically in the synthesis of certain vitamins like vitamin K and some B vitamins.
- Indigestible carbohydrates are metabolized into short-chain fatty acids that are vital for the health of the intestinal wall.
- Good bacteria support the motility of the intestinal tract (movement of the muscles to mix and propel digestion of food).
- Increasing evidence indicates that intestinal microflora has protective and immunological functions and that it plays an important role in maintaining the immunity of the gut.
- They also produce cytokines that are necessary for immune response in the intestine (a bodily response to an external substance that isn’t recognized as a part of the body).
- Good bacteria also help in breaking down carcinogens, or substances capable of causing cancers, in the diet.
How Antibiotics Affect the Good Bacteria:
Now, let’s figure out the effects of antibiotics on probiotic bacteria. Antibiotics are prescribed when there is an infection in the body, to kill off the bacteria causing it. But, they don’t just kill the harmful microorganisms. They also destroy the natural flora in the intestinal tract. Loss of good bacteria in the intestinal tract can lead to many problems in the intestine. All the functions of good bacteria mentioned above are affected negatively. They cause an overgrowth of bacteria which can lead to acid reflux. They also reduce the muscular activity of the intestines, impact metabolic functions, and make the body more vulnerable to infections, due to a lack of probiotics in the system.
Daniel Merenstein, M.D. and Director of Research of Family Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center, says “Only take antibiotics if they are truly needed. These actions will help protect your gastrointestinal microbiome.”
Good bacteria also aid in the production of stomach acid and help in digestion of food. Know about other factors that affect stomach acid production here.