How Bacteria Can Improve Our Health
Microscopic organisms have been present on the earth before man, animals, fish or insects. We have had a love-hate relationship with these microbes. For the most part it has been a beneficial relationship with give and take. Sometimes their presence has harmed us and sometimes their absence has harmed us. However, the fact is that without these organisms, we could not have survived.Microscopic organisms consist of bacteria, viruses and fungi. There are millions of different species of organisms. Some are good, some are bad, some are good in small amounts but bad in large amounts and some are bad in small amounts but good in large amounts. The types of organisms present on our skin, in our mouth, stomach and intestines have a large influence on our health.Our body’s digestive system from the entrance in the mouth to the exit has a huge surface area where it comes in contact with many microorganisms.Our digestive system primarily consists of our mouth, esophagus (throat), stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The small intestine is where most of our food is digested. It has 200-250 square meters of surface area which if spread out would be an area the size of a tennis court. Our skin has 1.5 to 2 square meters of surface area.
The organisms inside us have a greater influence than the organisms on us. Unfortunately, we pay more attention to our 2 square meters of skin than the 100 times more surface area of our digestive system. We have 100 trillion bacteria in our digestive system consisting of 300 to 1000 different species. Of these, there are 50 to 70 dominant species. Fungi are also present in smaller numbers as well. The type of organisms in our intestines has remained relatively the same for millions of years. For most of human existence, we ate natural, fresh foods with our hands that we gathered from the ground, trees, and bushes. We ate animals, fish and insects partially cooked and many times raw. Yet, mankind survived. Our normal microorganisms protected us. Our body is like an ecosystem where there is a balance between the different species of organisms just like in a forest there is a balance of animals. The participants not only keep each other in check but also help each other. If something changes that balance by removing or adding organisms it affects the whole ecosystem. So the whole body is affected. Modern developments such as sanitation, diet and antibiotics began to change the population of our intestinal microbes. Some of these changes have been good but most have been bad. Good in that we have eliminated or reduced many illnesses like cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, anthrax and bubonic plague. Bad in that we now have different microorganisms. This has altered what we absorb in our digestive system leading to poor absorption of good nutrients and more absorption of toxins. It has also changed our immune system making us more susceptible to illness, autoimmune disorders, and allergies. We need to restore our natural ecosystem to improve our health. There are things that we can do individually and worldwide that can improve our health. We can eliminate the antibiotics used to raise the meat, fish and seafood in this country and abroad. In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the use of an antimicrobial agent for growth promotion in animals be terminated. In 1998, the European Union (EU) banned all growth-promoting uses of antibiotics used in human medicine. This not only changes our body’s natural bacteria, it makes harmful bacteria immune to antibiotics when we are sick and need them most. We can avoid the temptation to take an antibiotic left over from previous prescriptions when we have a cold. We can eliminate the use of antibacterial soaps, gels and cleaners in our home that contain the chemical triclosan which also helps make bacteria immune to antibiotics. We can, however, use soap, water; bleach (Clorox) and alcohols (Lysol) since bacteria cannot develop resistance to these.
We can eat foods that have probiotics which have good bacteria such as yogurt with active cultures. Look for the American Yogurt Association’s “AC” seal.
You can also buy probiotics supplements in capsule form
We can eat prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that the good bacteria digest and the bad bacteria can’t. Examples of these are fiber found in whole wheat, oats, fruit, and vegetables. We can avoid sugar since bad bacteria like sugar and good bacteria like fiber. The following are some suggested reading for more information.
“Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World” by Jessica Snyder, Sachs, published by Macmillan “The Probiotics Revolution” by Sarah Wernick & Gary B. Huffinagle, published by Random House “Oral Probiotics: The Newest Way To Prevent Infection, Boost The Immune & Fight” by Casey Adams Ph.D., Sacred Earth Publishing. “The Antibiotic Paradox” by Stuart B. Levy, published by Da Capo Press
Sinuses and Your Teeth
Sinus pressure can be miserable, causing pain in your head, eyes, ears and even your teeth. Conversely, not only can your sinus pressure affect your teeth; but an infected tooth can affect your sinuses. At Delmarva Dental Services we have seen patients who have had sinus surgery when all they needed was a root canal. We have also seen patients who have had root canals and extractions because of an undiagnosed sinus problem. So let’s learn more about sinuses so we can better understand the relationship between our sinuses and teeth. The maxillary sinus cavity is located under your eyes and above your teeth. It has channels which connect it to the other sinuses such as the nasal, ethmoid, frontal, the ears and the back of the throat. Sinuses produce mucous to warm the air you breathe. The mucus also contains chemicals which cause bacteria to dislodge. The hairs (cilia) in your sinuses beat and move the mucous containing dust, pollutants, bacteria & viruses down the throat and into the stomach. This is called mucociliary clearance or MCC. Here the stomach acid destroys the bad stuff. When the mucus becomes thick, the cilia slow down, the channels get blocked and fluid builds. The mucociliary clearance (MCC) decreases. The fluid becomes stagnant, builds pressure and becomes a breeding pool for bacteria and viruses. It is also a major source of bad breath. The very bottom of the maxillary sinus sits on top of the roots of the upper back teeth. When pressure builds up in the sinus it can cause the teeth to become sore, ache, hurt to bite, be sensitive to cold and even feel like the “bite” is off. On the other hand, an abscess at the end of the root of an upper tooth can drain into the sinus and lead to chronic sinus problems as well. It is important to remember how closely your sinuses and teeth relate to each other. If you start to have toothache, ask yourself, “Have my sinuses been bothering me lately?” and if you start to have chronic sinus problems, maybe it is your teeth that are the root of the cause. This is one reason among many to have good, regular checkups with your dentist and tell him or her if you are experiencing any sinus issues. Another great thing you can do for yourself is to use a Xylitol sinus spray regularly to keep things flowing in your sinuses, possibly preventing issues there.