Your body is home to many trillion microorganisms, including 38 trillion bacteria. Altogether, the bacteria in your body weigh around 2 kg.
Until recently, it was believed that bacteria were all bad, causing only infection and disease. Today we know that the vast majority of bacteria are either harmless or actually beneficial to our health, and some of them are absolutely essential to our survival. Only a handful are potentially harmful to humans.
Your gut microbiota
Together, all the microorganisms in your body, including bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and parasites, make up your microbiota. Approximately 90-95% of these microorganisms can be found in our gastrointestinal tract, or what we commonly call our gut. The gut flora, or microbiota, consists of trillions of bacteria belonging to thousands of different species.
What does the gut microbiota do?
- Helps digest food and absorb nutrients
- Helps regulate, support and educate the immune system
- Helps fight off harmful bacteria
- Helps produce vitamins and other important substances
- Helps break down toxins from drugs or other sources
The gut microbiota – a personal trainer of the immune system
You may have heard that health starts in the gut and that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. In fact, your gut or gastrointestinal tract actually starts in your mouth and extends all the way to your stomach and small and large intestines. It is nine metres long and would cover half a tennis court if it was laid out flat. This makes your gut, by far, the largest contact surface your body has with the outside world, which helps explain the importance your gut has for your immune system.
In addition to contributing to stopping unwanted substances from passing through the walls of the intestines into the blood stream, the gut microbiome works as a personal trainer of the immune system, teaching the T-cells of the immune system to recognize and destroy harmful substances.
For a healthy immune system, a balanced microbiota is essential. A healthy immune system is capable of fending off unwelcome invaders like bad bacteria and toxins thanks to the good bacteria.
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