Updated: Jul 19
Not many people realise that they have a family of trillions living inside them.
Those trillions are microbes, and without microbes, you could not exist.
Most people think of microbes or (bacteria) as a yucky thing when instead, it’s one of the most surprising elements that make up the human body. Technically speaking, you’re more microbe than human!
You are more microbe than human.
Just as you look like a combination of your natural parents by containing a blend of their DNA, you also carry the family lineage of microbes from your ancestors living right inside of you.
Each of your microbes also has their own DNA too, so much so, that your microbes have over 150 times more genes than you. But what does that mean? It means that our microbes contribute more DNA that is responsible for human survival than we do as humans!
Microbes are little itty bitty unseen creatures that consist of a single cell, and there are more of them living inside you than there are cells in your body. They outnumber the cells in your body by 10 to 1 and make up somewhere between 1 to 3% of your body weight. For me weighing at 65 kg (143lbs) that’s 1kg (1.43lbs) to 2kg (4.29lbs) of bacteria. So if they outnumber the cells in the body by 10 to 1, that essentially means that only 10% of you is human cells and the rest of you is microbes. So it would seem that we are more microbe than human! Living, breathing, walking microbes.
One-third of your gut microbes are closely the same as everyone else that you know, but two-thirds are unique to you much like your fingerprint. They are what make you, you.
They live in, and on every part of your body, from inside your guts and mouth to your skin, hair and up your nose. Samples of microbes taken from these various parts of the body show so much diversity of species just as you would see in the ocean.
Your microbes and your immune system are best friends. (Most of the time)
The majority of bacteria that call your body home live in the Gut. This is important because around 80% of what makes up your immune system is also in the Gut.
So it looks like Hipprocates got it right when he said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
The immune system living in your Gut must be able to determine between bacterial cells, and you’re human body cells. I'm sure you can guess what happens when it can’t tell the difference between the two!
Our gut microbiome contains about 100 trillion bacteria made up of more than a thousand different types. One gram of our poo has more bacteria living in it then there are humans living on earth!
Nearly everyone at all times routinely carries pathogens (micro-organisms that can cause disease.) Yet in healthy individuals, the disease does not manifest, but rather the pathogens coexists harmoniously with your other bacteria in a beautiful state of equilibrium. Your good gut microbes keep control over disease developing. But what happens when you don’t have enough good microbes?
The delicate eco-system.
Your body is a host to good and bad bacteria. Bad bacteria, despite being called Bad, is not always harmful! Your body needs a balance of bad bacteria as they too have such an important role to play. It’s very much like a balance of the natural food chain system. People think sharks and spiders are bad, but yet they play an essential role in the circle of life. So does your Bad bacteria. Problems and disease begin when bad bacteria multiply and begin to outnumber the good bacteria!
Our bacteria are responsible for our survival just as much as we are required to eat food to live. They have soo many diverse jobs from supplying us with energy, manufacturing vitamins, breaking down toxins and training our immune system to keep us safe.
Just like flora and fauna of the Amazon jungle has its own balanced eco-system, so too does our Gut. Overpopulation of one species can upset the delicate balance.
When there is something wrong with us, there is something wrong with our microbiome.
Overpopulation of harmful bacterias can be responsible for obesity, depression, chronic disease and a plethora of other issues. Would it surprise you to know that certain bacteria can be responsible for making you fat?
Now, before you start throwing responsibility out the window for your weight and blaming bacteria, know that what you eat and lack of exercise is the cause as to whether you have too much fat-bacteria! How you treat your body can really be the life or death of our precious little critters that make us, Us.
Depending on where you’re from in the world can also have an effect on which bacteria can help you to digest different foods. If you’re from traditional Asian cultures, you can have more bacteria that breaks down soy in tofu, better than someone from a culture that has never eaten it before. If you’re from the northern regions of an Eskimo culture, then you host more bacteria to break down whale blubber than most Australians. Just like humans have adapted to live in different environments, our gut bacteria do the same. And this is passed down through generations.
You may not be able to see your bacteria, but you can feel them, and they do an excellent job at letting you know when you’ve pissed them off.
The best bacteria at letting you know this is a bacteria that causes diarrhoea. It’s called Salmonella! Generally, humans have some Salmonella bacteria in their stomach and intestines, but our low PH stomach Acid does an excellent job at killing them off before they have a chance to invade your cells and make you sick.
Most people think of Salmonella when they see raw chicken. When properly cooked, the bacteria is killed off, but when not, then you have probably felt the effects of those nasty critters multiplying inside your body at an exponential rate and biting right into your cells. Without enough stomach acid or an abundance of good bacteria, you’re in trouble. Once the cells of the stomach become infected, the cells pump huge amounts of fluid into the Gut in attempt to flush out the bacteria as fast as possible. This is diarrhoea, that awful, noisy, smelly and embarrassing bodily function that you just pray for a miracle to make it stop.
Before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was helping my father work on his house one weekend. On a Friday night, I purchased KFC for dinner. We sat and happily ate what we could, and there was some leftover. I forgot to put it in the rubbish bin that night and had left it on a trestle outside, forgetting entirely about it. Saturday came and went. Then on Sunday, I came back from the shops with some food for lunch, and my Father had told me that he just ate. Puzzled, I asked him what was it that he ate, knowing full well there was no food there. He replied, ’ Needless to say, the old bugger didn’t get sick, he didn’t get bloated and didn’t even fart! Life went on as usual for him and his cast-iron gut. I suppose he had a healthy population of good bacteria to deal with the situation.
Before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was helping my Father work on his house one weekend. On a Friday night, I purchased KFC for dinner. We sat and happily ate what we could, and there was some leftover. I forgot to put it in the rubbish bin that night and had left it on a trestle outside, forgetting entirely about it. Saturday came and went. Then on Sunday, I came back from the shops with some food for lunch, and my Father had told me that he just ate. Puzzled, I asked him what was it that he ate, knowing full well there was no food there. He replied, “KFC.” I looked at him blankly and said, ‘What KFC?’ He nodded to the trestle and replied, ‘The packet of chicken sitting over there.’ ‘What the hell, Dad?’ I snapped back quickly. You’re going to get sick! That's two days old and has been sitting in the sun since Friday! He sheepishly shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I thought you must have just bought it, it was warm, oh well it tasted good.’ Needless to say, the old bugger didn’t get sick, he didn’t get bloated and didn’t even fart! Life went on as usual for him and his cast iron gut. I suppose he had a healthy population of good bacteria to deal with the situation.
Microbes are somewhat responsible for your emotions.
Not all bacteria gives you diarrhoea, some little critters can also make you feel on top of the world. Your bacteria play a significant role in your emotions. Have you ever heard of Serotonin? It’s your inbuilt natural happy drug. Most people think it comes from your brain, as your mind helps you to express emotion, but really, 95% of Serotonin is produced by the cells of the Gut. So when you’re feeling those rushes of happiness, you know you can thank your gut bacteria for that.
It also works in reverse too, when you’re feeling depressed, remember that your unhappy Gut might be the cause of your unhappy mind.
When you’re feeling sick, bloated, tired and grumpy, this can be your bacteria going spastic, doing backflips and chucking a tantrum because of what you might have fed it. They are getting pissed off and causing inflammation.
However, you’ll know when your bacteria is feeling nice and balanced because you’ll touch your flat, calm, un-bloated belly and think to yourself, ‘Gee I feel good, I feel like I’ve lost weight.’
Microbes have regular chats with your brain.
Your microbiome just don’t hang out on their own. They are all interconnected via a network of nerves which is now referred to as the Gut-Brain. The brain in your Gut is just as complex as the brain in your head and the two can talk to each other.
Have you ever had a ‘gut-feeling’ or a strong ‘sense’ of something? Chemical reactions in your brain are not always responsible for what you ‘feel’ or ‘sense,’ but rather a response to the bacteria in your Gut, that was communicated to your brain via the gut-brain axis.
Your Gut needs to talk to your brain. It needs to relay the information on how your body is going. Your brain is quite a distance away from the rest of whats going on in your body, and it’s not connected to every part - but your Gut is. Your Gut-brain is the connecting element right in the centre of you. It knows what you ate, it knows whats going on in your blood, it’s chatting to your other organs constantly and listening to your bacteria. All this information is relayed to the brain in your head for processing. The nerves of your Gut reach out to every corner of your body and have such a large surface area that it makes it the largest sensory organ!
Do you think your mind or your tastebuds are solely responsible for why you really ‘felt’ like a steak tonight for dinner? Or you really just ‘needed’ some fresh vegetables? Your bacteria is so connected to what your body needs, that it has a pretty remarkable way of telling your brain whether or not you need the Steak or the vegetables. Even without you knowing.
Have you ever had a situation happen that was soo stressful that you vomited?
For a long time, I thought my emotions were the reason why I would get diarrhoea for days and a dry mouth so bad I couldn’t eat when I heard the news that a family member had died.
Physical stress responses like this can be a result of your body trying to protect your brain. It eliminates the food in your system via vomiting or diarrhoea to conserve energy crucially needed for the brain. Your digestive system requires a lot of energy, so your Gut determines that your brain needs to survive more than you need food, so all resources and energy are diverted.
That’s how remarkable your Gut is.
You’re probably thinking so what's the point of this biology lesson, and what does it have to do with gluten and celiac disease?
The answer is everything!
As your microbiome is uniquely special to you, you need to take care of it and know what’s best to feed and not feed those lovely little critters.
What food you eat on your gluten-free diet will influence how your microbiome reacts, and possibly change its structure completely. People who go gluten-free tend to jump into eating gluten-free alternative food, but the problem with this is that most of these alternative products, cause inflammation and upset the microbiome.
Do you really think those little critters are happy eating Modified Starch in that loaf of bread?
Just because you remove gluten doesn’t mean your gut bacteria are going to be happy with what you’re replacing it with. They too need good sources of food. Refined carbohydrates, soybean oil, GMO's and sugar in gluten-free alternative products may not be the best option.
Part of healing from a gluten ravaged body is to balance the microbiome, replenish your Gut with good-bacteria, prebiotics, fermented foods and ensure their survival.
Remember: When there is something wrong with you, there is something wrong with your microbiome.
A happy gut = a happy you.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. This article is for news and update purposes only and all copy right remains to the author. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. The GF Hub does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service.