We have all heard about our gut and the microbes living inside us. Here are 5 facts that you may not know about your gut:
1. Your body has more microbes than human cells
Bacteria are everywhere!! There are more bacteria on your hand than there are people in the world! But before you rush off to wash you hands – not that that would do any good – know that most bacteria are good for us. After 1000s of years of evolution we have found a way to co-exist. The bacteria that reside in your gut cannot live without us and we cannot live without them. It is estimated that there are 100 trillion bacteria residing in your large intestine. That is 10 times more than human cells. Think about it, we have 10 times more bacterial DNA than human DNA. Hopefully this makes you realise how important it is to keep them as friends and not as enemies.
2. Bacteria can be good and bad for you
You are probably aware that germs can make you sick. What you may not know is that many bacteria are very important to keep you healthy and to help you fight off infection. The bacteria in our gut can either be our friends and protect us from harm or our enemies that make us sick. Whether or not we are healthy highly depends on the type of bacteria that reside in our gut.
Your gut can only hold a specific number of bacteria and everyone is fighting to get a spot in your gut. However, the bacteria need to eat, so it is important what you feed them. If you feed the bad bacteria, they will become strong and take up residence in your gut, but if you feed the good bacteria, they will become stronger and take up the place of the bad ones. I’ll let you guess which ones eat at your local farmers market and which ones eat at McDonald’s.
3. Diversity is important
To give your gut the best chance for good health it is important that there are many different types of bacteria in your gut. Having many different species of bacteria in your gut will act as a buffer against collapse. If one species disappear then there are still others present to avoid total collapse. However, imagine if you only have a few different species, then when one disappears there are more chances for bad ones to take up residence and to dominate.
Here are some numbers to relate to: The average American hosts about 1200 different species and the average American Indian living in the Amazonas in Venezuela hosts about 1600 different species. I am going to let you guess which one suffers from more lifestyle related diseases that originate in the gut.
4. Our microbiota is as unique to us as our fingerprints.
Your gut microbiota reacts to the world around and within you, and as a result, your microbiota is unique and distinct, like a fingerprint. Even identical twins that have identical DNA have a different microbiota. Siblings or children growing up very closely tend to have more similar microbiota. This is probably due to having a similar lifestyle and eating similar foods.
5. Our microbiota has the capacity to change over time
Our microbiota goes through a dynamic journey from birth, through childhood, to adulthood, old age and death. Our microbiota changes over time and is very closely related to what we eat, how we live and what we expose ourselves to. This means that by changing our microbiota, we can change our health.