4 April 2014
So you think youre all human? Well, think again. Your body is home to trillions of miniscule passengers commonly known as bacteria. In fact it has been estimated that there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells!
The collections of microbes living in close association with your body, and the genes they contain, form the human microbiome. These communities live on the entire exterior of your skin, in the linings of your nasal passages and lungs, and in your gut. Whilst they may not sound entirely pleasant, these cells play many essential roles within the body.
The microbial world existing within your gut is closely linked to your health they help break down and harvest energy from your food, provide nutrients that would otherwise be denied, and prevent the growth of the potentially bad, disease-causing bacteria. The gut microbiome has also been linked to the prevention of medical conditions as well, including allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and even obesity.
In turn, it has been found that the food you put into your body affects the gut microbiome. The Gut Inflammation Team at the Malaghan Institute, led by Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom, is taking a new look at health by suggesting that we are what our gut microbiota eat! Currently, they are investigating whether the gut microbiota can be targeted through nutrition in attempts to reduce the risk of inflammatory disease and maximise the chance for a healthy life.
Image courtesy of Sebastian Petravic.