An Introduction to the Gut Microbiota and Why It’s So Important for Your Health

In recent years, the gut has received a lot of attention. Evidence has shown the critical role of the gut in maintaining overall good health in general. Evidence has shown that this is mainly due to the influence of the gut microbiota, which is the entire community of trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi) found along the digestive tract.

The diet’s ability to alter microbial ecology was first recognised over a century ago. Gut microbes use ingested nutrients as fuel for fundamental biological processes; thus, changes to dietary habits alter bacterial metabolism and favour species most suited to use consumed fuel sources. Recent research has shown the critical effect of nutritional changes on microbial structure, which consequently affects human physiology and disease processes.

Although many different types of microbes live inside the human body, bacteria are the most studied. This is because there are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells, which is quite astonishing when you think about it. There are roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells in the body. If that wasn’t enough to comprehend, there are up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome. Even more, those have different bodily roles, most of which are extremely important for your overall health. Without the gut microbiome, it would be tough to survive.

The gut microbiome begins to affect your body right from birth. When you pass through your mother’s birth canal, you are first exposed to microbes. After that, multiple lifestyle factors, such as your diet and environment, influence your microbiota. As you grow, the microbiome will diversify. The more diverse, the better.