Gut health has become a hot topic in recent years. Gut bacteria, probiotics and prebiotics are all the rage and there are many many products which have entered the market, promising good digestion, glowing skin and optimal health.

But what exactly is gut bacteria?

Officially known as the microbiome, our gut bacteria is all of the billions of bacteria which live in us and on us, in conjunction with other microbes such as yeasts (like candida) and viruses (the virome). This is entirely normal, and influences our health on an enormous scale. Bacteria outnumber our human cells 10:1. We are far more bug than we are human.

Many of these bacteria reside within our digestive tract – in our gut. These are coined “gut bacteria”. Ultimately we want a good balance between the good and the bad bacteria. When we have an overgrowth of bad bacteria, or too little good bacteria, we can experience digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), autoimmune digestive conditions (Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis) and more. Imbalances in these gut bacteria can also negative influence immunity, asthma, anxiety, depression, eczema, psoriasis and much more. The ratios between the good and bad bacteria must be balanced.

These bacteria are highly intelligent organisms and are not yet completely understood by science. What we do know is that these bacteria communicate with different organs in the body, including the brain (hence their ability to both cause or treat depression and anxiety), lungs (hence the link to asthma), skin (hence the link to psoriasis and eczema) and the immune system (hence the link with autoimmune conditions and recurrent colds and flus).

We can test the balance of bacteria through stool testing which assesses all of the bacteria, yeasts and potential parasites in the large intestine, and we can test for overgrowths in the small intestine (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth/SIBO) via breath testing. If there are overgrowths, herbal antimicrobials to remove these may be required. If there are too little of the good bacteria, probiotics and prebiotics may be used to promote their growth. An individualised approach which takes into account all aspects of the digestive tract and unique health picture always yields the best outcome.

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