Gut flora: how does it affect our health?

Gut flora: how does it affect our health?

The human intestinal flora comprises an estimated 100 trillion bacteria. Most of these microbes benefit health, but others hurt the organism. In the following section, you will find out what we need the intestinal flora for and how we can maintain or rebuild it.

Definition: What is the intestinal flora?

The human gut is home to around 100 trillion bacteria. For comparison, around seven and a half billion people live in the world – so there are 13,000 times as many bacteria in one person’s intestines as there are people on Earth.

One speaks of the “flora” of the intestine because its inhabitants were initially considered to belong to the plant world. However, we now know it is more of a question of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea (a group of cellular organisms). Today, therefore, one prefers to speak of the intestinal microbiome.

Most of the intestinal bacteria are valuable helpers. They support us in digestion, form vitamins (B2, B7, B9, B12 and K) and strengthen our body’s defences.

They are mainly located in the large intestine. However, intestinal bacteria can also be detected in the rectum, the so-called colon.

What is the composition of the intestinal flora?

The composition of the gut microbiome varies from person to person. There are some bacterial strains that all humans have in common, but the composition of the microbiome of two people is always different.

An important factor that influences the intestinal flora is diet. Each bacterial species prefers a specific type of food. Some like carbohydrates, while others need proteins or fats. Therefore, a change in diet is consistently noticeable in the intestinal microbiome: the composition of the bacteria changes after just one day.

Based on the composition of their intestinal flora, three types of people can be distinguished, although mixed types are also possible:

  • Enterotype 1: Bacteroides dominate here. This type includes people whose diets are high in protein and saturated fat, i.e., people who consume a lot of meat.
  • Enterotype 2:  The predominant strain here is the Prevotella bacteria. They feel comfortable in the intestines of people who eat a lot of carbohydrates, such as grain products and potatoes.
  • Enterotype 3: Ruminococcus bacteria set the tone here. They love sugar and colonize the intestines of people who like to eat sweets.

Regarding the preferred food of the individual bacterial types, however, science is still divided, so the division mentioned here is only one possible explanation.

Disturbed intestinal flora: symptoms of a dysbiosis

A healthy intestinal flora ensures that everything runs smoothly in the intestine. However, if digestive disorders occur, it is reasonable to assume that dysbiosis has occurred, i.e. bacterial miscolonization.

The ratio of beneficial to harmful intestinal bacteria is disturbed in this case. This can have different consequences. The most common are symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoeabloating and abdominal pain.

However, a disturbed intestinal flora is also associated with numerous diseases. The relationship between the intestinal microbiome and the development of diseases such as depression, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases and even cancer is hotly debated among scientists. 1,2,3,4

 

Does a disturbed intestinal flora make you ill?

However, whether dysbiosis can contribute to developing these and other diseases has yet to be clarified. A causal relationship has yet to be proven.

This also applies to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome  (IBS). It has been established here that it can be accompanied by bacterial miscolonization in the intestine. However, it is not yet known whether “bad” intestinal bacteria trigger IBS or, conversely, whether it causes the composition of the intestinal microbiome to change for the worse.

How do antibiotics affect the intestinal flora?

It has been proven that taking antibiotics can hurt the intestinal flora. 5 These drugs kill pathogens and change the composition of the intestinal flora.

Although the intestinal flora has not entirely disappeared after an antibiotic treatment, it is often severely depleted. In addition, the composition has shifted towards harmful bacteria. This is why diarrhoea usually occurs after taking antibiotics.

How do you rebuild the intestinal flora after antibiotics?

To avoid digestive problems after antibiotic therapy, it makes sense to rebuild the intestinal flora afterwards. For this purpose, a cure with pro-, pre- or synbiotics is recommended:

  • Probiotics are viable, health-promoting bacteria that are taken orally.
  • Prebiotics are the fibre that these bacteria feed on.
  • Synbiotics are preparations that contain both probiotics and prebiotics.

These preparations are available in pharmacies and drugstores in capsules, powder, and drinking cures.

 

How helpful are probiotics?

There needs to be more disagreement about the effectiveness and risk of probiotics. Surprisingly, new scientific evidence suggests that long-term intake of high doses of probiotics could lead to digestive problems and even states of confusion.

The leader of said study 6, Dr Satish Rao, believes that how one builds up intestinal flora are medicines, not dietary supplementsThe long-term use of probiotics should be discussed with a doctor to ensure they are safe. 

Build Damflora with homeopathy – is that possible?

Building up the intestinal flora homeopathically is not possible. In addition to the intestinal cure, however, homoeopathic remedies can be tailored to the respective symptoms. A visit to a naturopath or homoeopathic doctor is advisable here.

How long does it take for the intestinal flora to rebuild?

Since no two people have the same intestinal microbiome, the recovery of the intestinal flora after antibiotic treatment also takes different lengths of time. It can, therefore, take several months for the intestinal flora to regain its former composition.

 

Stool transplantation to build up the intestinal flora

Pro–, pre- and synbiotics may even prevent the intestinal flora from returning to its old state. According to a scientific study, a stool transplant could make more sense. 7

An autologous stool transplant would be particularly suitable for rebuilding the intestinal flora, in which the affected person donates his stool before the medication is administered and receives it again after the antibiotic treatment. However, more research needs to be done on this topic.

Zur fäkalen Mikrobiatransplantation (FMT) wird auch in anderen Bereichen geforscht. Es gibt erste Hinweise, dass die Transplantation vom Stuhl einer gesunden Person anderen Menschen bei Stoffwechselstörungen und Krankheiten helfen könnte.8 Auch hier sind jedoch weitere wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen notwendig.

Darmsanierung: Wie funktioniert’s?

Eine Darmsanierung beinhaltet nicht “nur” das Aufbauen der Darmflora. Vorher wird der Darm gereinigt. Das soll dazu dienen, ungesunde Bakterien und andere Schadstoffe aus dem Darm zu befördern.

Häufig wird eine solche Kur nach einer Antibiose durchgeführt. Manche Experten für Alternativmedizin empfehlen eine Darmsanierung aber auch bei Verdauungsbeschwerden und sogar für Menschen, die eigentlich gesund sind.

Die Darmreinigung kann auf verschiedene Weise erfolgen. Es ist möglich, die Entleerung mit Einläufen zu fördern. Diese sogenannte Hydro-Colon-Therapie ist jedoch mit Risiken verbunden. Es kann zu Übelkeit, Erbrechen, Durchfall und Nierenversagen kommen. Sogar von Todesfällen infolge der Therapie ist die Rede. Auf keinen Fall sollte man sie allein zu Hause und ohne ärztliche Betreuung durchführen.

Letzteres gilt jedoch für alle Arten der Darmreinigung. Insbesondere Menschen, die Medikamente einnehmen, sollten vorab Rücksprache mit einem Arzt halten, da manche Methoden zur Darmsanierung die Wirksamkeit von Medikamenten verändern können.

Flohsamenschalen zur Darmsanierung

Eine schonendere Methode zum Sanieren des Darms ist die Einnahme von Flohsamenschalen. Sie werden mit viel Wasser aufgenommen und quellen dann im Darm auf. Auf dem Weg durch den Darm befreien sie diesen von Nahrungsrückständen und anderen Ablagerungen.

Doch Vorsicht: Flohsamen können Medikamente binden und sollten deshalb in zeitlichen Abstand zu diesen eingenommen werden.

 

Welche Probiotika sind geeignet?

During and after colon cleansing, it is recommended to take probiotics to restore the intestinal flora. There are many different strains of bacteria; every person reacts differently to probiotics.

It isn’t easy to make concrete recommendations. Lactic acid and bifidobacteria are often used.

Which foods are suitable for the intestinal flora?

Anyone who associates probiotics with yoghurt and is now wondering which yoghurt can be used to rebuild the intestinal flora will be disappointed: it’s more complex. Diet can help strengthen the intestinal flora. However, restoring the intestinal flora with probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics preparations is more effective.

Nevertheless, there are foods whose beneficial effects on the intestinal microbiome are known. These include, for example, foods rich in fibre, such as whole grain products. These are preferable to products with short-chain carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour. Fresh sauerkraut also has a high content of lactic acid bacteria.

A healthy diet generally positively affects the intestines and is therefore always recommended.

Healthy lifestyle: What else is good for the intestinal flora?

Apart from diet, lifestyle also influences the intestinal flora. Stress and lack of exercise hurt the intestines.

It is, therefore, essential to maintain a regular sleep rhythm, take breaks to relax and get enough exercise. Even slight movement promotes peristalsis, i.e. the movements of the intestines that transport food further along the digestive tract.

 

Intestinal flora: how to test it? Who examines the intestinal flora?

If you discover intestinal problems or have just taken an antibiotic, your family doctor is your first point of contact. He can test the stool to determine if, for example, pathogenic bacteria have settled in the intestines. They may refer you to a gastroenterologist who can initiate further investigations.

However, it is also possible to have an analysis of the intestinal flora without a doctor’s help. For this purpose, over-the-counter sets are also available on the Internet.

 

 

 

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