Though you may only think of food and stomach acid inhabiting your stomach, most people harbor colonies of stomach bacteria, also known as gut flora, that are able to survive the intense acid of the stomach and can serve either as helpful in digesting your food and maintaining balance and health in your upper gastrointestinal tract, or can be damaging and cause diseases and stomach conditions, up to and including cancer. Most bacteria in stomach are anaerobic, meaning they don’t require air to survive, but a very small percentage of these microbes are aerobic bacteria.
While most people associate the word “bacteria” with germs, and assume that all bacteria are unhealthy and cause diseases, scientific studies have shown that without gut flora, digestion is not as easy or efficient. The by-products of bacterial waste cause fermentation which then makes it easier for your body to break down the food and use it for energy, and then get rid of the waste. Stomach bacteria can also be useful not only in helping to keep the body’s immune system on its toes, but also to actively fight off more dangerous disease-causing bacteria that are likely to cause the body harm.
While for years, many people thought that even if bacteria weren’t harmful, they certainly did the body no good, it’s been proven that beyond giving the body’s immune system a boost and helping aid digestion, some bacteria create vitamins and hormones that are beneficial for the owner of the stomach they inhabit. Some bacteria are associated with obesity and normal bodies, meaning that the gut flora you have living in your stomach may be the reason you’re too fat or that you never gain enough weight.
There are, of course, pathogenic bacteria, the ones that cause diseases. One of the more common ones is Helicobacter pylori, which is a known cause of gastritis, gastric ulcers, and stomach cancer. It is thought that other stomach maladies, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and colitis, also may have ties to bacterial colonizations in the stomach.