39,000,000,000 microorganisms—also called microbes and mostly consisting of bacteria—live in and on our body, and account for up to 3% of our body mass.
The majority of these microorganisms live in our gut and play a critical role in supporting our immune system, mood regulation and energy, heart health, and a host of other functions.
Getting to know your inner world a little better
Yes! And this number is conservative. Some sources state that there could be up to 100,000,000,000 (100 trillion) microorganisms living on and in our body! We like to joke that we’re really bacteria-sapiens – bacteria-powered organisms. :)
Bacteria is good!
When you think of bacteria you might think of them as those wiggly little things under a microscope, or something along the lines of germs. Rest easy, because most bacteria are good and those that are on and in our body are essential. They are hard at work right now and play a critical role in our health and wellness.
What is a microbiome?
A microbiome is a community of microorganisms living together in a habitat. Humans, animals, and plants have their own unique microbiomes, but so do soils, oceans, and many other things.
Our microbiome is the collection of microbes that cover the skin and most of the inside of our body, from our mouth down to our digestive tract. That's where most microbes reside - in the digestive tract, or the gut microbiome.
Where do these microbes come from?
¾ of your microbiome can be traced back to your mother and has been developing and changing since the moment you were born. It is truly unique to only you – Think of it as your very own, unique "microbial fingerprint." Your gut microbiome is impacted and molded by almost every aspect of your life. It keeps track of everywhere you've lived, the air you've breathed, the foods you've eaten and so much more.
What does our microbiome do?
A whole heck of a lot! The gut microbiome assists in absorbing nutrients, breaking down toxins, creating blood vessels, replacing cells, and is the foundation of our immune system. It plays a leading role in supporting our digestion, strengthening our immunity, and has also been linked to increased energy, reduced stress, improved sleep, mood and overall well-being. It does a lot of good!
A few fun stats to digest:
- 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract
- 90% of your serotonin is produced in your digestive tract
- There are approximately 10x the number of microbial cells in the human gut as in the whole human body
How can I keep my gut microbiome happy and healthy?
To be frank, science doesn’t yet know what a healthy microbiome looks like. Hopefully one day we will!
Until then, what we do know is that beyond genetics, environment, and medication use, our diet plays a large role in determining the type of microbes in our gut microbiome. Research shows that taking supplements or eating foods that contain prebiotics (fibrous foods, which include most fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains), and probiotics (fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, pickled veggies, kombucha, kimchi, and miso) can benefit and contribute to a happy, healthy gut.
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Microbe – Single-celled organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle.
Probiotic – A substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms.
Prebiotic – Plant fiber that acts as food for good bacteria. This stimulates growth among the preexisting good bacteria.
Microbiome – The microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
US National Library of Medicine