How do “good” and “bad” bacteria get into your gut?

Microbes are non-human cells that live and function all around us, on us, and in us. Inside our body lives an estimated 100 TRILLION microbes, about 3 times the number of human cells that make up the form and structure of the human body. However, despite their numbers, microbes only compose about 1% of the total mass of the body! Though outnumbered, humans have the advantage of being a responsive host capable of change...when we want to, that is.

In the 4 years between 2013-2017 there were nearly 13,000 published scientific articles on microbes and bacteria, accounting for about 80% of all articles from the prior 40 years! Much has to do with the development of genetic tools and analytical methods available to scientists, and over the next few years, allows scientists a chance to interpret the blossoming amount of data into useable practices, make predictions, and identify possible threats to our health.

There are too many species and sub-species of bacteria that reside on or in our body to mention here, and all across the globe, healthy people appear to have similar bacterial profiles in their skin, hair, oral cavities, and in the gut. Most of the bacterial dominance in type and number are present in our gut, and over the last decade, scientists have noticed that these non-human species of bacteria interact and communicate with its human host, influencing critical functions of the host’s immunity, neurology, and metabolism.

How did they get into us?

A child born into a world full of bacteria, starting with the birth process where contact with the mother during vaginal birth introduces the infant to the first cultures, which are far different (and absent) during a Caesarian section. Nursing and breast-feeding provides additional early exposure to bacteria that will later contribute to the development of the immune system and influence the central nervous system.

Over the years, microorganisms enter and colonize our gastrointestinal tract mainly by food sources. Bacteria that are in dirt, in milk, and on plant surfaces enter our body and have to fight for the space to reside within our body. Many variables influence a bacteria’s ability to thrive, like presence of sugar, artificial or manufactured food products, illness, dietary diversity, frequency of bowel movements, and even the presence of other bacteria will make or break new colonies from living mutually inside the host.

An amicable symbiosis

With continued advancement in genetic tools comes our ability to differentiate the kinds of bacteria present inside us during different states of health. For example, some species of bacteria may be metabolizing the drug compound L-Dopa in the gut before it can reach the brain to be metabolized by the brain into dopamine. The lack of dopamine in the brain has been associated with Parkinson’s tremors and other neuro-degenerative disorders.

You are never alone

The collection of microorganisms that live within your GI tract forms a “microbiota”, outnumbering the amount of cells by 3-10x of your body composition. The diverse collection of genetic material between them is known as the microbiome. Laboratory rats deprived of microbiota and live in sterile conditions have many health problems. Their bones are too flexible, they don’t digest their food well, cannot form endogenous vitamins and proteins on their own, and die of early degenerative diseases.

Future relationships

The symbiotic relationship between microorganisms and humans are essential, and can be beneficial or toxic to our health. We don’t know how many other species we will discover in the near or distant future, and to what degree of impact they will affect or be associated with human diseases. And the ones we do know about, the “good” and the “bad” bacteria that is in us, we are still learning from. They need us as much as we need them as more and more studies confirm.

What we do know is that a diversity of whole food consumption is essential to balancing our microbiota, and manufactured foods high in sugars and artificial products can cause certain bacterial cultures to thrive and others to dwindle. Changing our GI microbiota is not impossible as they got to where they are through our foods and products we consume. So the next time you have a bite to eat, remember that you are a host to millions of guests, some will stay, some will go. Being more selective as a host may perhaps prevent the guests from destroying the house over time!

Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults,

athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care. For comments or questions, email him at

#gutbacteria #microbiome #mircrobiota

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