You may know that we have bacterial cells in our bodies that play crucial roles in keeping us healthy. But did you know that our bodies contain more bacterial cells (about 38 trillion) than human cells (about 30 trillion)? It’s true, and while there are some harmful forms of bacteria, we enjoy a symbiotic relationship with most of them, serving as their host in exchange for critical health benefits.
In this article, we’ll explore the gut microbiome—the dense cluster of bacterial cells living in our large intestines—and explain how to take care of this vital component of the human body.
So let’s get into it. We mean, really into it. Way down in the gut—more specifically, the colon—where most of the bacteria in our body live in a dense ecosystem interacting with, and feeding on, the food that is not digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Much of the food still in the digestive tract at this point simply cannot be digested by human cells; they lack the enzymes to do it.
But bacterial cells thrive on much of this food matter, fermenting it and extracting nutrients and energy the human body can use. Moreover, studies show that the microbiome influences the healthy development of the immune system, prevents infections, and enhances the functioning of the brain and nervous systems.
There is also evidence that the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the prevention of human disease. Conversely, dysbiosis, an irregular composition of bacteria in the gut compared with healthy individuals, is commonly present along with a human disease.
Fortunately, we are beginning to understand how to manage and nurture this complex system of bacterial cells within us. One way to aid the gut microbiome is by consuming prebiotics and probiotics, though it is important to consult with a doctor to determine which ones have the proven health effects you desire. We’ll cover this topic in a follow-up article, so stay tuned.