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What You Need to Know About Your Delicate Intestinal System

Your intestines swarm with beneficial organisms. Over 400 species of friendly bacteria live within the creases and folds where they have a profound effect on digestion and immune health. Known as probiotics, these single-celled microorganisms collectively weigh about four pounds and number in the trillions in a healthy system.

The nonpathogenic bacteria consist mostly of lactobacilli, which are predominant in the small intestines, and bifidobacteria, found mostly in the colon. Also present are potentially harmful pathogenic yeasts (Candida albicans) and bacteria (Proteus, H. pylori, Citrobacter, Pseudomonas, and others). These pathogens exist naturally in the system but they must be kept in check.

A healthy flora balance keeps potentially harmful bacteria under control through sheer numbers. Friendly bacteria should represent 85% of the intestinal flora, with the “bad” bacteria and yeasts making up the rest. This 85/15 ratio is essential for healthy digestion and elimination, nutrient production and uptake, immune health, detoxification, and other key processes.

Every time you swallow an antibiotic, however, you chip away at that 85/15 balance. Some antibiotics can kill over 99% of the good bacteria they come up against. Without the policing effects of the beneficial bacteria, pathogenic yeasts like Candida can multiply out of control and create instant trouble—like diarrhea or yeast infections.

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