The Ecosystem in the Digestive Tract

Published date: March 15, 2012 | Modified date: March 15, 2012

Inside the digestive tube is a vast ecosystem where some 100 trillion bacteria live. This should not alarm you. We have been conditioned to think of bacteria as something bad, and the thought that we have 100 trillion “bugs” inhabiting our body can make us feel slightly queasy. Although some bacteria are bad, others are very good. In fact, if you don’t have them you feel very bad, because they are critical for proper digestion.

These bacteria have several important jobs: they help to break down food, they actually create some vitamins, they work directly with the immune system surrounding the digestive tract to protect us, and they independently protect us against invading organisms. Our relationship with the 100 trillion bacteria in our digestive tract has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. There should be no doubt about the importance of this ecosystem to good health.

Recent advances in DNA analysis have enabled us to determine the different kinds of organisms living in the intestines.  In just the last few years tests that analyze the DNA of these organisms and enable the determination of which healthy microbes and which pathogenic microbes are present and in what relative numbers have been created.  This dramatic advance is have been available to physicians, though they are mostly used in research facilitites.  The IBS Treatment Center is proud to be among those with both the training and the expertise to use such testing for our patients.