Microorganisms, a prerequisite for life
Our human body consists of about 10 trillion cells and we carry about twice that amount of microorganisms in and on our bodies. In fact, the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract is now recognized as one of our most important organs. It weighs around two kilos and both the number of microorganisms and their diversity are vital for maintaining the balance in the body.
Microorganisms, particularly bacteria, colonize every surface of the body that is exposed to the external environment, including the skin, our nasal and oral cavity and the most importantly, our gastrointestinal tract i.e. our stomach, small intestine and the colon.
Good and bad bacteria
There is a continues battle going on and our body is under constant attack from foreign bacteria and viruses. Luckily we have safeguards to protect us, a well balanced microbiota, a tight mucosa, and an efficient immune response.
The importance of gut balance
Our gastrointestinal microbiota and our lifestyle are strongly connected. About 80 percent of our immune system is located in our gut and the balance between good and bad bacteria plays an important role for staying healthy.
In a balanced gut, good bacteria outnumber the bad ones by ten to one. If bad bacteria start to exceed it may lead to various health conditions. In fact, new research indicates that there is a connection between an unbalanced microbiota and many common conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and asthma.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria that are found in food or supplements. The definition is ”Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” (WHO/FAO, 2002)
Important criteria for qualifying as a true probiotic is that health benefits should be proven in clinical trials. Furthermore, a probiotic product must contain the same bacterial strain(s) and the same dose that was used in the clinical trials.