5 surprising facts about your microflora

Healthy lifestyle

5 surprising facts about your microflora

3 april 2019


Gut bacteria can alter mood and behavior, and influence the development of neurological diseases. These are proven things. Even more surprising facts are cited by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg in Healthy Gut.

Uniqueness and variability

The union of a person with microbes occurs at birth. In the womb, the fetus is sterile, but as soon as the baby is born, microbes populate the virgin environment. We get them from mother, friends and family members, from the environment. And that’s not a bad thing.

Microbes that live on the skin. Illustration from the book “Living World under a Microscope”

Changing the way of life, nutrition, medicines, we must take into account how this will affect the microflora.

DNA sequencing has identified over two million microbial genes called the microbiome. Amazing facts were revealed. First, the microflora of each of us is as unique as fingerprints. Secondly, the microflora can fail, which leads to the development of diseases and pathologies, such as, for example, obesity (previously this was explained solely by the way of life). Thirdly, the microflora is capable of changes, which means that the state of health with aging can be controlled.

Strength of immunity

The state of the immune system also depends on the intestinal microflora. If it is normal, then the immune system is almost certainly functioning correctly: it effectively fights infections and destroys neoplasms. If the work of intestinal bacteria is disrupted, we are more likely to get sick, the risk of developing autoimmune diseases and cancer increases. Chemicals derived from microflora affect the immune response – the response of the immune system to damage or exposure to a pathogenic irritant, which manifests itself in the form of swelling, redness and soreness. A wide variety of health problems can start with inflammation.

As far as the moon

There are over 100 trillion bacteria in the gut. If you line them up in a chain, it will reach the moon. Bacteria are found in all parts of the digestive tract. Some species prefer to live in the stomach, although its harsh acidic climate is not suitable for many. Others live in the small intestine, but most choose the large: the density of the “population” here is 500 billion per teaspoon of intestinal contents.

A string of 100 trillion bacteria will reach the moon. A source

But you will not believe: with such a quantity, bacteria are threatened with extinction. The average person in Europe or the United States has approximately 1200 different types of bacteria in their intestines. It seems like a lot. But, for example, an American Indian living in Venezuela in the Amazon region has about 1600 – a whole third more. A variety of bacteria is also observed in representatives of other communities, whose lifestyle and diet are closer to the lifestyle and diet of ancient ancestors. Why? Modern technology has changed our diet (high-calorie foods are processed and produced on an industrial scale) and lifestyle (we disinfect rooms with antibacterial agents and abuse antibiotics), posing a threat to gut bacteria. Finding food in a grocery store is to them the same as finding food in a building materials store.

Our habitual foods mean hunger for gut bacteria.

The oldest form of life on Earth

Bacteria are everywhere: in cold, dark lakes hidden 800 meters beneath the Antarctic ice, in hot springs that reach 90 ° C, and in a lump in your throat just thinking about it. If we ever find alien life, chances are it will be microbes. (Rovers on Mars are programmed to look for signs of an environment capable of supporting microbial life forms.) Single-celled microbes are the oldest life on Earth, 3.5 billion years old. For comparison: people appeared only 200 thousand years ago. If we imagine the history of the Earth as one day, having established that the planet originated at midnight, then microbes would appear a little later than four in the morning, and people – just a few seconds before the end of the day. Without microbes, people would not exist, but if we all suddenly disappeared, few of them would notice.

The road on which food “walks”

The microbes living in the intestines have a powerful effect on digestion, however, food contacts the bulk of microbes only at the very end, having passed a significant part of the digestive tract. Food descends through the esophagus into the stomach, where it ends up in a bath of acid and enzymes to begin the process of digestion and absorption of nutrients. After about three hours of mechanical chatting in this harsh acidic environment with little or no germs, the partially digested food gradually enters the small intestine. It is a flexible tube approximately 6.5-7 meters long and 2.5 centimeters in diameter. The lining of the small intestine is a set of projections called villi that carry nutrients into the bloodstream.

In the small intestine, food is impregnated with enzymes. They are secreted by the pancreas and liver to help us digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Here in the small intestine, the number of microbes is relatively small, only about 50 million per teaspoon of intestinal contents. The last stop on this journey of approximately 50 hours is the colon, where food travels at the speed of a snail.

Based on the book “Healthy Intestines”

Post cover: unsplash.com

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