It is nice to think that this planet belongs to us but, the fact is, we have to share it with many other living forms, including microorganisms: bacteria, viruses and fungi. At this very moment, where ever you may be, there are billions of invisible microorganisms right next to you: in the ground you’re standing on, in the water you drink, the food you eat and in the air you’re inhaling.
If you think there must be a few of them inside your body as well, you’re right: micro-organisms in your intestine, on the skin, in your mouth, nose and scattered throughout the body, outnumber your body cells by a wide margin. Most of them are bacteria and the rest are viruses and fungi.
Normally, these bugs don’t cause health problems, because your immune system keeps them in check. We coexisted for millions of years, simply because humans, through natural selection, have come out with the adequate defending mechanisms.
However, the merciless law of natural selection can turn very different face to you. As long as you are healthy, those tiny bugs have little chance of harming you. But if your health is for any reason compromised (nutrient deficiency caused by poor diet, stress, trauma, unhealthy lifestyle, genetics, age, etc.), they can overwhelm weakened body defenses, over-multiply, and cause a disease. The statistics are telling: infectious diseases are #1 cause of death in children and the elderly.
That makes these tiny bugs worth a closer look. Any of the three main form of microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, and fungi – can and does cause a human disease.
Bacteria are single-cell plant organisms, most of them only a few microns (micron=0.001mm) in size. What separates bacteria from all other cellular forms is that they lack the nucleus. Most bacteria are doing great job at recycling, transforming and composting organic matter; our life, as we know it, just wouldn’t be possible without them.
They also inhabit our skin, mouth, intestine – and pretty much the entire body. Healthy adult intestine has roughly 50 trillion generally friendly bacteria in it, helping digestion and keeping bad bugs from over-multiplying.
Most of the intestinal bacteria are numerous species of bacteroides. While normally friendly, or at least harmless, some of them – notably B. fragilis – are opportunistic pathogens and can cause infections – commonly associated with abscess formation – when spread out of the intestines to any other part of the body. Internal infections that they cause can be very serious, more so due to high antibiotic resistance of these bacteria. The chances for this kind of infection to occur are particularly high with inflamed, leaky intestines, commonly associated with weakened immune system.
Some intestinal bacteria – like lactobacillus and bifidum – are always friendly and health supporting. That earned them the name probiotic bacteria , which could be translated as pro (your) life. You want them to be there at all times, and in good numbers: 10 to 20 trillion of them. Their numbers can be suppressed by poor diet choices – excess of sugary and processed foods – and compromised digestion, both promoting other, unfriendly bacterial forms, as well as by frequent or prolonged use of antibiotics, which indiscriminately kill them. Periodic supplementation with probiotic bacteria can be vital for keeping your gut – and your entire body – healthy.
Out of some 100 trillion bacteria living in your body, only a small fraction is potentially harmful (pathogenic). They usually don’t cause infection until given the opportunity to multiply extensively. In general, this occurs due to weakened immune system. Pathogenic bacteria can also infect the body from the outside – through air, food, or by physical contact.
Less than 1% of all bacteria can cause bacterial infection. Their metabolism produces toxins that damages body cells and disrupts body processes. Most often, it is their toxins that produce symptoms of infectious (bacterial) disease. Bacterial diseases affect most often skin, respiratory tract, gastro-intestinal and urinary tract, but also other areas of the body.
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