The Body’s Flora (Indigenous Bacteria in the Human Body)

About one hundred trillion bacteria live inside you – Up to a 1000 species and more than TEN TIMES the number of cells you have in your body! These indigenous bacteria are referred to as the body’s flora and live in many areas of your body, including the skin, intestines, mouth, nose, pharynx, urethra and vagina

Organisms are considered either “friendly” or “unfriendly” – when “Friendlies” and “Unfriendlies” have an appropriately balanced presence, the body can better maintain health

Friendly Bacteria

  • “Friendly” bacterial flora provide many health benefits to the body
  • “Friendly” bacterial flora thrives on dietary fibre – and other so called prebiotic foods.
    • Unfriendly organisms – includes pathogenic bacteria, friendly bacteria multiplying out of control, and fungi, such as yeast e.g. Candida albicans;
  • When uncontrolled by “Friendly bacteria”, the “unfriendlies” can cause disease or illness to their host
  • The “Unfriendly” organisms in your body thrive on sugar – imagine the “party” those pathogenic bacteria and fungi (incl. yeast) are having when you feed them!

Health Benefits of Beneficial Flora

Beneficial flora / probiotics have at least 30 known pharmacological actions. 

  • Anti-infective – antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal
  • Immune system-supportive – upregulates glutathione (GPX) and certain glycoproteins that help regulate immune responses, including IL-4 (Interleukin-4), IL-10, IL-12; more than 60% of your I.S. is in your gut.
  • Antiproliferative – apoptopic (promotes natural self-destruction of cells); Inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitor, NF-kappaB, epidermal growth factor receptor, +++
  • Protective – antioxidant, cardioprotective, gastroprotective, radio- and chemo-protective
  • Anti-allergenic
  • Antidepressive – the vagus nerve (10th cranial nerve) connects your gut to your brain, each affecting the other, explaining the link between neurological disorders and GI dysfunction (E.g. ADHD, autism). Intestinal health has been found to profoundly influence mental health.
  • Detoxifying – probiotics appear to have a role in detoxing harmful chemicals.

How do beneficial flora /probiotics work against pathogens?

  • Beneficial flora are antagonistic / competitive towards pathogenic bacteria.
    • Probiotics help normalize acid/alkali balance in the intestine – “Friendly” bacteria decrease colonization of pathogenic organisms in the gut by secreting acids that are toxic to local pathogenic bacteria – by liberating hydrogen peroxide and organic acids (E.g. Lactic, butyric and acetic acids) in the intestines, the local luminal pH is shifted downward to create an unfavourable environment for growth of pathogenic flora.

Williams NT. Probiotics. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2010;67:449-458.
Alvarez-Olmos MI, Oberhelman RA. Probiotic agents and infectious diseases: a modern perspective on a traditional therapy. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;32:1567-1576.

  • They compete with pathogens for adhesion sites on intestinal wall (epithelium)

Macintyre A, Cymet TC. Probiotics: the benefits of bacterial cultures. Compr Ther. 2005;31:181-185. 

  • They compete with pathogens for nutrients
  • They produce bacteriocins (protein toxins) to inhibit pathogens
    • They Modify pathogen-derived toxins
  • They stimulate immune mechanisms of intestinal mucosa
    • By increasing cytokine activity
    • They increase lymphocyte activity / intestinal macrophage phagocytosis – by causing local macrophages to increase antigen presentation to B-lymphocytes and increase secretory antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) production both locally and systemically;
    • They reduce immune system reaction to food antigens
    • They help stimulate the production of the protective mucus layer lining the GI tract – they can also line the mucus layer to add an extra level of defense keeping out pathogenic bacteria
  • Beneficial Flora produce beneficial metabolic enzymes
  • They digest undigested polysaccharides / mucin / fibre – g starch, glycogen, cellulose and chitin.
  • They produce the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose – thereby benefiting those who are lactose-intolerant;
  • Induce synthesis of B group vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, also folic acid and biotin;
  • Improve uptake and absorption of calcium;
  • Help reduce cholesterol;
  • Regulating levels of an enzyme that is involved in production of cholesterol within body
  • Acting directly on cholesterol in the GI tract