How do bacteria influence the health and activities of the GI tract?
Bacteria in the intestines are sometimes referred to as flora (even though they are closer to animals than they are plants).
400 or more different species and subspecies live in a healthy GI tract. Most live in the small intestine where the pH is close to neutral. Most of the bacteria in the digestive system are not harmful. They are considered to be beneficial by most researchers. as long as the normal intestinal bacteria are living, harmful bacteria are less likely to be able to establish themselves and infect the body.
We consume products that help populations of helpful bacteria, like yogurt with live cultures. They can help to alleviate diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, allergies, lactose intolerance, and infant colic; enhance immune function, and help protect against colon cancer.
These gut bacteria digest fiber and complex proteins in the digestive system. When they digest these fibers the bacteria can make nutrients like short fragments of fat that our large intestine cells burn as energy.