Microbes – the invisible soldiers in our gut
Microbes in the human body
Microbes are very diverse, they have an amazing variety of shapes and sizes, and they can exist in a wide range of habitats from hot springs to the icy wastes of Antarctica and inside the bodies of animals and plants. Microbes live in the soil and the rocks – just think every time you walk on the ground, you step on millions of microbes.
Microbes are tiny forms of life that surround us — too small to be seen by the naked eye. They are found in water, in the soil, and in the air.
The human body is also home to millions of these microbes, also called microorganisms. Some microbes make us sick, others are important for our health.
The invisible soldiers in our gut!
The human gut has always been perceived solely as the organ responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Having said that, there is more to the gut than what is commonly known. The gut is an essential part of the body’s defense mechanism with an estimated 70% of the immune system in the gut1.
As humans, we harbor about 38 trillion microbes and most of these microbes are solely centered in the gut2. These microbes form the invisible microbial ecosystem of the gut, which is believed to act as soldiers and play a significant role in the function and general well-being of the human gut. Various disorders and conditions come to play at the slightest disruption of this invisible microbial ecosystem in our gut.
We are unique, so do they!
A glimpse of the random group of people in the picture above will tell one that even though they as all human beings or Homo sapiens, every person you see possesses their own individualistic characteristic. As an analogy we can conclude that, they are all of different “strains”.
This same concept can be applied to the microbes that we harbor. For instance the bacteria Lactobacillus casei is naturally found in the human gut and is also commonly used in many probiotic products. However, it is crucial to understand that the species Lactobacillus casei itself can have numerous strains and NO two strains would exhibit the same activity.
No two species of bacteria are the same – the core determining factor is their strain.
- Vighi, et al. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 153, (2008): 3-6.
- Sender, et al. “Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body.” PLoS biology14, no. 8 (2016).