MAY 15, 2017 2:28 PM PDT

The things living in your gut


100,000,000,000,000. One hundred trillion, that is the number of bacteria that live in and on you. That number is so inconceivably large that putting it into understandable terms is difficult, but think of this: bacteria in and on your body outnumber your cells 10 to 1. And the bacteria that live in your intestines, known as your gut flora, is just as important as it is numerous.

Gut flora has many functions. To name a few: they help digest your food, protect against pathogens, provide essential nutrients and vitamins, and even support your immune system. Because these bacteria provide us with so many unique services, scientists often think of our microbiome as our second genome. And for good reason, too, as the concentrations of our gut flora affects our entire corporal health, determining whether or not we suffer from certain diseases such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and Crohn's. Gut flora can even go so far as to influence brain behavior and development!

When we are born, we are sterile from any bacteria, and in the moments after we emerge into the world, we start to form our gut flora. There is currently a lot of research in the field of how disturbances to gut flora (via antibiotics, or cesarean versus vaginal birth, or breast feeding versus formula feeding) at a young age can impact you later on in life. To learn more in depth, watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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