Bacteria, the soil, the gut, and detoxification


Bacteria get a really bad rap. Most of us associate bacteria with sickness, and we often go out of our way to kill bacteria by using antibacterial soaps and cleaners. When we are sick, we often look to antibiotics which kill bacteria in order to become healthy again.

But only about 5% of bacteria are actually pathogenic, and the other 95% are beneficial. What do you think would happen if all the bacteria in the world died? It would not be long before all life on earth ceased to exist, as bacteria are fundamental to the birth, life and death of every living thing on this planet.

Bacteria are part of the planet’s garbage disposal system that breaks down dead plant and animal tissue returning it to soil in the form of humus, so life can begin again. Each gram of healthy soil has 600 million microorganisms containing thousands of species of bacteria and fungi, so healthy soil is fully alive. And the humus that the bacteria make is the nutritious food that plants require in order to grow healthy and robust.

So in summary, bacteria ensure the health of the plant by providing it with food and nitrogen, and bacteria break down the plant if it is sick or after it has died, so that only the healthiest plants survive, and cycle of life can continue.

According to the late Sir Albert Howard, one of the most well known experts on organic farming, pests, diseases and parasites are "nature’s professors of good husbandry", meaning that diseased plants indicate a problem in farming, and provide an opportunity to look for mistakes and correct them.

So, what happens when farmers spray their fields with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides? They kill the army of microorganisms that support plant life, rendering the soil dead.  Plants cannot grow in dead soil without the aid of chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers do not make for healthy plants. Unhealthy plants do not make for healthy people.  So our health rests on the health of the bacteria in the soil.

In times before chemical agriculture, we would consume live bacteria along with the food we ate. In healthy people there are thousands of species of bacteria that live in our digestive tract from the mouth, throughout the intestines and colon, that help us digest our food, synthesize vitamins like folate, vitamin K and biotin, and that are vital to the function of our immune system.

Bacteria break down our food into a useable form that can be absorbed through our intestines and utilized by the body. Bacteria clean the walls of the intestine and colon so that waste can be excreted easily and are therefore key to the body’s ability to detoxify itself.

Exposure to bacteria is critical to building a strong immune system, as the body needs something to fight against in order to build its army. Overuse of antibacterial soaps, pasteurized products and antibiotics has led to a sicker and more allergic population, as the body has not had the opportunity to build its antibodies.

So, the question becomes – do you have enough bugs in your gut, and are they the right kind? Were you ever on antibiotics? If so, they killed all the bacteria in your gut, so if you did not actively replace them, probably not.

In today’s world of processed, denatured, sugar and chemically laden food that came from dead soil, most people have a bacteria population in their gut that is 85% "bad" bacteria and only 15% "good" bacteria, and the ratio should be the other way around.

Good bacteria are killed off by the chlorine and fluoride in the water we drink, caffeine, birth control pills and other drugs, stress, food additives, and too many bad bacteria that compete in the gut for food and a place to live. No wonder so many people have irritable bowel syndrome or other problems that stem from an inability to detoxify themselves.

Many people are carrying around with them several pounds of dead, rotting fecal matter in their intestinal tract, which creates a potential for self-poisoning and disease. Symptoms of poor quality bacteria in the gut is an inability to lose weight, carbohydrate cravings, recurrent candida or yeast problems, frequent constipation or diarrhea, digestion or acid reflux problems, joint pain and stiffness, frequent colds or flu, skin problems like acne or eczema for example.

So, how do we re-establish good-quality bacteria in our gut? We can start by eating living, whole organic food grown in live soil, eating more high quality fermented foods, and by filtering our water so we are not drinking chlorine.

Most importantly, take a quality probiotic supplement daily in order to repopulate the gut quickly with good bacteria. I like Primal Defense by Garden of Life, and I have just been made aware of InLiven by MiVitality which also looks really good, although I have not yet personally tried that one.

A good probiotic is a detox program, so start slowly in case you have detoxification reactions like not feeling well, headaches, or a need to be close to the bathroom. If you are reacting, cut your dosage or skip a day until you feel better. Most people don’t react negatively at all however. Build up your dosage to the recommended levels over time as your body cleans itself out and you feel better and better.

Related tips:
Dealing with health issues
The Hygiene Hypothesis
Worm composting to eat your garbage and feed your garden

Chek, Paul Under the Veil of Deception 2002
Abbott, Phyllis, PhD Bacteria in Control of Life, Death and Evolution? Authorhouse, Bloomington Indiana, 2006.
Online at Bacteria
CD MiVitality Organic & Natural Enterprise Group, 2004.

Copyright 2005-2007 Vreni Gurd


  1. karen said,

    October 24, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

    Can hydroponic gardening equal to all the beneficial bacterial of soil growing?

  2. ambika shukla said,

    May 17, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

    I don’t agree that a vegan diet is not complete. I have been vegan for the last 15 years and feel and look better than ever. You are misleading your readers by promoting animal foods which cause cancer , diabetes , osteoporosis, heart disease and a whole host of illnesses.
    You could be a lot more useful if you promoted veganism as a healthy diet choice.

  3. sandra742 said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 9:21 am

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  4. Rebecca Cody said,

    July 10, 2011 @ 10:02 am

    Vreni, I’m on a one-woman campaign to wake up the world to the differences between folic acid (artificial) and folate (natural). Most people think they are the same, but there are serious differences. The following is an excerpt from my blog:

    Folate or Folic Acid?
    *Before we get into the protocol for enhancing methylation, let’s talk a bit about the difference in folate and folic acid. Most of us are used to the term folic acid. Indeed, even my computer’s grammar checker knows that one, but it frowns, with a squiggly red underline, on the word folate. Yet folate is the natural form of B vitamin which is intrinsic, along with help from B12, B6 and a few minerals, to the methylation process. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the man-made or faux form, which doesn’t work the same way at all. Dr Fuhrman published an important article on the differences in how these two nutrients work in the body. I learned the information shared below from his website.

    Dr Fuhrman gives facts and figures showing how very differently they each affect our bodies. Here’s a real zinger: In an article published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers collected data on womens’ folic acid intake from multivitamins over a 10 year period. They found that women who took multivitamins containing folic acid were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those who did not.

    He reports that in another study people taking folic acid for more than three years increased their risk of having a colorectal adenoma by 35%!

    Folic acid, which is now in almost all prenatal vitamins, was found to increase the risk of childhood asthma by 26%! At another site I learned that a Johns Hopkins research study of more than 8,000 people found those with higher levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, showing they had fewer allergies and less asthma. Those with the lowest folate levels had a 40% greater risk of wheezing than people with the highest levels.

    In a six-year Norwegian study, it was learned that those taking folic acid along with other B vitamins were 43% more likely to die from cancer than those who did NOT supplement with this artificial form of the vitamin.

    Look out, folks! Folic acid, not the natural folate, is in almost all multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. Yet folic acid is chemically very different from folate. The body uses it differently. There are limits to how much folic acid the intestines can change into a more useable form of folate, and the excess, unmodified folic acid goes into the circulation in unmodified, alien form. And, though scientists don’t even know what this excess folic acid circulating in our bodies does, it is mandated to be added to flour and vitamin products! It’s possible, even likely, that an even larger cancer epidemic is developing because of this.

    Instead of encouraging pregnant women to get lots of natural folate from veggies and beans, they are all taking folic acid, which is putting them at risk of breast cancer down the road. Not only this, but there are many other nutrients found in green veggies that these women aren’t getting, and therefore their fetuses aren’t getting, because they likely feel the vitamin supplements cover all the bases. Childhood cancers are on the upswing, yet many of these cancers could be avoided with better prenatal nutrition.

    On the other hand, people NOT taking folic acid, but getting folate from food, have less cancer, based on the level of folate they consume. The more they folate they eat, the less cancer they have. Thus, the natural form is protective, while the artificial form promotes cancer.

    Dr Fuhrman’s site has a chart showing how much folate is in a 100 calorie serving of many foods. Unfortunately, this chart has limitations, because it doesn’t tell you how big a serving holds 100 calories. Any idea how many spinach leaves it takes to add up to that? I suppose there is another chart somewhere that does, but it would be a tedious conversion.

    To read Dr Fuhrman’s article, go to

  5. Vreni said,

    July 10, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for this. Nope, I did not know this at all!

    Thanks for the information and the link!

  6. Efren said,

    September 4, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    Hi Vreni,

    I originally got your articlers as an endorsed health issues contributor at a huge Bed Company…almost forgot the name, since then I enjoyed your articles and threads, popping into my emails…I truly had high respect on your articles….I’m a sleep medicine technologist , so time and time again, had to pass-on by stories and sometimes a print-out of your articles, as I discussed health issues too with and amongst my patients…Kudos and my your tribe grows even more!


  7. Jack Harney said,

    September 4, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    Hi Vreni,

    You and I have “spoken” before. I look forward to your weekly emails, and have made positive adjustments to my eating habits over the last few years as a result. I’ve finally hooked up with your blog. Had a point re: the fact that we Humans are the only species that cook our food.

    In today’s email you mention foods like fries and potato chips that clearly are hazardous to our health. I couldn’t agree more, but they are also what I would call “new” artificial foods, added only recently to Human diets. Basically, it appears that what has been literally killing us is the plethora of these new foods that our systems are not adapted to and that raise hell with our bodies. But I do think there is a point to be made for all the other more natural foods that we cook. While cooking does affect food in the very real and scientifically explained manner you describe, don’t you think that 125,000 years has been long enough for our bodies to adapt to what cooking does to food? Are we now capable of absorbing what we need from cooked food, maybe even better than raw food, if we balance our overall diet to not eat too much?

    Oh and to your vegan comment. I can see that vegans have a good point about how happy they are with their regimen. However, as a male who exercises every day, I can say that on the more rare occasions where I eat red meat, I can literally feel the cells of my body saying to me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” As I see myself as the advance thinking Human Being that I hope I am, I am also aware of those genes in my body that still speak the words, “Me Tarzan.”

  8. Vreni said,

    September 4, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    Hi Jack,

    I totally agree that artificial foods are probably the biggest cause of health problems. And whole, unprocessed foods will always be healthier.

    That said, there is no denying that heat destroys certain vitamins, alters proteins, and damages polyunsaturated fats. It takes 100,000 years to alter our genes 1%, so I’m not sure it has been long enough for us to adapt to damaged proteins and fats, and inadequate vitamins.

    I’m not saying all cooked food is terrible. Most of the food I eat is cooked, but I do go out of my way to include raw and fermented foods also, to make sure I get some undamaged nutrients. I like my steak blue rare, and also enjoy steak tartar on occasion.

    I agree with you also with respect to the vegan diet. Most of us really need flesh food to be healthy – and more if one exercises.

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