Since the accidental discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, research in this domain witnessed a boost, with many such similar molecules being purified, synthesized and tested for various bacterial infections. Simultaneously, their modes of action, dosage and safety studies were carried out and before long, there was sudden spurt in the discovery of novel antibiotics. Since the discovery of their efficacy in tackling bacterial infections, antibiotics continue to play a pivotal role in the treatment of a wide array of diseases.
Our body is a habitat of trillions of microorganisms that colonize the exterior surfaces as well as the inside of our body. Of these, organisms in our gut are extremely important. They participate in several physiological processes, right from aiding digestion, synthesizing vital nutrients like vitamin K and certain B vitamins, to hormone regulation, immune responses and even moods and mental health. As was rightly said by Hippocrates, “All Disease Begins in the Gut,” an imbalance in the gut ecosystem can lead to harmful consequences that include inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, cancer 1 and even autism. Strange, isn’t it?
The gut microbiota consists of 1014 (that’s like 10 trillion!) microbes, working round the clock to maintain the health of the gut and also overall condition of the body. They control the vast majority of our immune health.
Around 300 to 500 bacterial species cover the 1014 and comprise of various bacteria like Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia and Fusobacteria. Other species, including Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc, are classified as lactic acid bacteria or probiotics 2 All these are commensals, i.e. they perform beneficial functions for the host and in turn utilise the nutrients and thrive in this protective, nutritious environment.
Our gut ecosystem experiences an imbalance due to illness, stress, aging, bad lifestyle and habits and most importantly, the use of antibiotics. This dysbiosis is responsible for digestion problems, weak immune responses, irregular sleep patterns and even bad breath.
In today’s world, the good old routines have been replaced with fast and easy options in all aspects of life. Lifestyle, food choices, lack of exercise, unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking and most importantly, excessive, unnecessary use of antibiotics has led to a perpetually disturbed gut microflora in most of us. The extent to which the flora has changed depends on the type and strength of the antibiotic and the duration for which it was taken.
What is not understood is that this disturbance is the root of almost all health problems. Thus, maintaining the gut flora is of utmost importance.
Here are some quick tips that can be followed for a perennial healthy gut.