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11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Microbiome

You may have heard the term microbiome pop up all over the place and have some idea of what it is by now (hint: bacteria). We thought now might be the time to focus on some lesser known facts about the gut microbiome.

11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Microbiome

  1. Your body has more microbes that human cells. There are 10 times as many microbial cells in the human body than there are human cells. This translates to around 100 trillion bacterial cells, weighing up to 2 kilograms – similar to the weight of a human brain!

  2. We still do not know what a “normal” microbiome is. While there exists a vast amount of research around the microbiome, the understanding of a “normal” and “healthy” microbiome versus one in the disease state is still in its infancy. There are studies around associations between the microbiome and a number of diseases including alzheimers, diabetes, and autism but we still have a long way to go before we can start talking about the perfect microbiome. 
  3. The gut microbiome of westernized, industrialized populations is less diverse and includes different bacterial species than that of rural, less developed populations. When it comes to the microbiome, the environment plays a significant role in impacting the composition. This includes exposure to soil, animals and other environmental microbes, as well as diet of course. 
  4. Fecal microbiota transplant from lean healthy donors has been found to be successful in improving insulin sensitivity in men with metabolic syndrome. Fecal transplants involve a process where a fecal sample from a healthy individual is transplanted into the gut via a colonoscopy, enemy or tube. Despite the “ick” factor, it has been proven to be highly successful for treating patients with antibiotic resistant C. difficile. Additionally, a study in the journal Gastroenterology found an increase in insulin sensitivity and higher levels of butyrate-producing intestinal microbiota after transferring microbiota from lean donors. 
  5. Gut bacteria transfers from mother to child in breast milk. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics with 107 mother-infant pairs found that almost one-third of bacteria in a baby’s intestinal tract comes directly from the mother’s milk. Babies that continue to breast-feed even after eating solids will still reap these benefits. 
  6. Stress can harm your gut. It probably comes as no surprise that stress can have a detrimental effect on your microbiome. This effect depends on how long you’ve been experiencing stress and the relationship is bidirectional. If stress can influence your bacteria, your gut health can impact your ability to manage stress via the “gut-brain axis”. For example, stress can reduce microbial diversity, negatively impact the immune system and as a result make the body more vulnerable to disease, thereby increasing stress levels. 
  7. Gut bacteria can influence your behavior. “It’s not me, it’s my gut bacteria”. A growing number of scientific papers look at the role of intestinal microorganisms in mood and human behavior. Gut bacterial composition has been found to be linked with risk taking, anxiety, stress and sexual preferences in animals. While it may be too early to start blaming our bacteria for everything, our microbiota undoubtedly play an important role in our everyday choices and actions. 
  8. Probiotics don’t necessarily work. You can find probiotics in just about any pharmacy these days. While some studies have found beneficial effects such as helping with gut issues, many commercial probiotics haven’t been adequately investigated for effectiveness. Furthermore standard dosages and amounts do not exist, and many probiotic formulas may include beneficial bacteria for certain problems but not others. Instead, it is recommended to focus more on including fermented foods and prebiotics such as legumes, artichokes and garlic. 
  9. Microbiome exists everywhere on your body – but the majority is in the gut. The human microbiome is a collection of trillions of microbes with thousands of different bacterial species that reside in the mouth, gut, vagina and on the skin. Most of these bacteria reside in the gut bacteria, and are responsible for synthesizing vitamins, neurochemical, aiding with digestion and strengthening the immune system. 
  10. You can make money by selling your stool. Looking for a side job? Several research studies are taking donations from healthy volunteers, some offering $40-$50 per donation, several days a week, which can add up to $13 000 a year! Just goes to show this has really become a hot topic. 
  11. The Human Microbiome is classified as a drug by the FDA. The human stool has been classified as a biological agent and its use in fecal microbiota transplantation therapy and research needs to be regulated to ensure patient safety.

While we may have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the microbiome, but we know without a doubt that it is an area that is expanding rapidly and plays a serious role in our life quality and longevity. At DayTwo we are putting in our best efforts to make this research and knowledge base actionable and accessible – with an initial focus on balancing blood glucose levels. Looking towards the future, we hope to continue applying the microbiome to target other chronic and metabolic diseases.