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Home / Digestion / Gut Bacteria and Viruses

Gut Bacteria and Viruses

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg March 28, 2020

People douse their hands in sanitizer and their homes in disinfectant. Why? To get rid of bacteria. If just the thought of bacteria is enough to send chills down your spine, you might find it interesting to know that your own body is actually home to trillions of bacteria. But, something else that’s really good to know is that a lot of this bacteria is actually there to help you. In fact, you have friendly gut bacteria that can be very beneficial for your immune system.

Let me explain why not all bacteria is as scary as it seems, and how much of your good bacteria are fighting to keep you healthy.

In this article, I will cover:

A man next to a comparison of gut bacteria and bad bacteria.


 

What Is the Microbiome? 

In your gut, you have something called the microbiome. Your microbiome is a combination of friendly bacteria and other microbes that can potentially be harmful, including:

  • Other types of bacteria
  • Yeast
  • Parasites
  • Candida
  • Viruses
     

Your microbiome is vast and still a little mysterious. For example, you have virus-like particles or VLPs all over your body. VLPs closely resemble viruses, but they are non-infectious. They don’t have any viral genetic material inside of the cell. There is not a lot that’s known about these yet, but there is research that’s continually being done.

Your microbiome actually extends further than your gut, these microorganisms inhabit all over the inside and outside of your body. They also have different functions that can benefit the inside and outside of your body as well.

When things are balanced, your good and bacteria live peacefully in their little bacterial communities, and with you, their host. But, if something throws off this balance, killing your good bacteria, the bad bacteria can take over, causing issues. A few things that can throw off this delicate balance are antibiotics, alcohol, stress, and refined sugar. The good news is, with the right actions, you can restore the harmony once again.

An x-ray image of what the human gut virome might look like inside of the body.


 

The Human Gut Virome

There is another part of the gut microbiota called the human gut virome. The human gut virome is made up of clusters of viruses that actually live in your body—and there are a lot of them. Think about this. You have possibly trillions of bacteria in your body. But, these viruses outnumber your bacteria ten to one. In some cases, the viruses outnumber the bacteria twenty to one.

The viruses co-exist, and most of the time they don’t actually cause any problems. But, let’s say you have a lowered resistance situation or some medical problem that increases your susceptibility to infections, then they could potentially create problems. This is one reason why I’m always emphasizing that you need to do all that you can to keep your immune system strong.

A woman making a heart with her hands and holding them in front of her bare stomach.


 

The Microbiome and the Immune System

It can be hard to wrap your head around the fact, but you do have harmful bacteria, yeast, fungi, and even viruses living in your body. But, thankfully, in the background, you also have a powerful army working very hard to keep you healthy.

This army doesn’t just consist of things like your white blood cells. It also involves your gut bacteria. Your good gut bacteria are an essential part of your immune system. Taking care of your gut microbiome and supporting your friendly bacteria is crucial. Your gut microbiome helps provide vital functions that are essential for human survival.

As I mentioned earlier, if you’re lacking in good bacteria, that gives the bad bacteria a chance to take over and thrive. Many different things can cause this, but one big thing people don’t often think of is inflammatory foods. If you consume foods that stimulate a lot of inflammation, the inflammation alone can create a shift from good bacteria to bad bacteria, and you lose the diversity of friendly bacteria.

A Few Amazing Things Your Microbiome Does for Your Immune System:

1. Your good bacteria help maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier. This wall helps prevent the bad bacteria from going across the wall and into other parts of the body.

2. The friendly bacteria help keep inflammation in check.

3. Your friendly microbes compete for space and food. They don’t let the bad bacteria have enough space or food to live.

4. Your good gut bacteria have the ability to directly kill pathogens.

5. Your good microbes can help enhance immunity. When they eat vegetable fiber, these microbes make short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids alone can help reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system.

6. There is an interesting link between your gut flora and your respiratory tract.

7. Your friendly bacteria help recycle and modify bile salts, which are antibacterial.

8. The microbiome has anti-viral properties.
 

The Microbiome and the Immune System—What to Avoid:

• Avoid Sugar

One of the biggest things you can do for your immune system is to avoid sugar. The harmful microbes in your body, especially candida, love sugar.

The Microbiome and the Immune System—What to Do:

• Probiotics

It’s important to periodically replenish your friendly bacteria. These helpful little guys can get wiped out so easily it can be beneficial to take a periodic probiotic to help keep your good bacteria at a high level.

• Prebiotics

A prebiotic is also essential to help support your good bacteria and, therefore, also support your immune system. You can get this from vegetable fiber. Your good microbes love fiber, and if you consume a good amount of vegetables every day, you can feed them the food they thrive on. I believe consuming seven to ten cups of vegetables every day will help maintain and support a healthy body.

 

Key Takeaways—Gut Bacteria and Viruses

Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms. Some of these are good, but some can potentially be harmful. You even have clusters of viruses that live in your body This is called the human gut virome. While most of the time, these pathogens and viruses don’t really cause problems, in the right circumstances, they can.

This is why keeping your immune system strong and healthy is so important. Part of doing that is supporting your good bacteria. Your good gut bacteria are a part of your immune system, and they have many different functions that help keep your body healthy.

You can help enhance and support your friendly gut microbes by doing things like avoiding sugar, taking a good periodic probiotic, and by eating your vegetables. Consider giving this a try and see what it can do for you.
 

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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