What Is Intestinal Bacteria?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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There are several types of intestinal bacteria that live inside the human body, with some being helpful to the digestive process and others being potentially destructive, especially when present in large numbers. Probiotics are helpful forms of intestinal bacteria, as are some strains of E. coli and some forms of Streptococcus. Harmful types of bacteria include H. pylori, Salmonella, and some strains of E. coli. Any individualized questions concerning intestinal bacteria should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Probiotics such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are naturally occurring types of helpful intestinal bacteria. Illness or improper dietary habits can disrupt the balance of healthy versus unhealthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. For this reason, probiotic supplementation has become an increasingly popular way to help restore the natural balance of intestinal bacteria. These supplements are available in most pharmacies and do not require a prescription from a doctor, although it is always wise to consult a doctor before beginning any type of nutritional supplementation.

Salmonella is a type of harmful intestinal bacteria that typically enters the body as a result of food poisoning. Abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea are the usual symptoms of Salmonella poisoning. In most cases, the symptoms disappear on their own within a few days, although medical intervention may sometimes become necessary. Severe cases of Salmonella can cause extreme illness or even death, so any suspected symptoms of Salmonella poisoning should be reported to a doctor for further medical evaluation.


Some strains of the E. coli bacteria are actually helpful for maintaining a healthy digestive tract, while other strains can cause moderate to severe illness. Sources of this type of harmful intestinal bacteria include undercooked meat and produce that has come into contact with contaminated feces. Some of the most common symptoms of E. coli poisoning include painful intestinal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and fever. In many cases, the symptoms disappear within a couple of weeks without medical intervention, although potentially fatal complications can occur.

Listeria is a type of harmful intestinal bacteria that is sometimes found in water or soil and can contaminate virtually any type of food product. Symptoms of Listeria poisoning often begin as flu-like symptoms such as fever and fatigue. The heart, liver, and spleen may later become enlarged, and the patient may become severely ill, often requiring hospitalization. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to this type of bacterial infection, especially when consuming undercooked meat or under-processed milk or produce.


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