Does the title trip you up? Bacteria are a taboo, especially with regard our health, aren’t they? So, how come we have colonies of them living in our guts, and seem to be honky-dory with it?

Before your mind goes haywire, flying in different directions with several worries; you really should listen to what doctors and scientists have to tell us about the whole issue as presented on BBCiWonder, they are experts at this after all.

Hello Microbes

Bacteria and other microbes (including fungi and viruses) are often thought of as sources of disease, but in fact many play an essential role in keeping you healthy.

Your body contains trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial. The most dense microbe population is in your gut – which starts at your oesophagus and ends at your rectum – where they play a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight regulation, and what you eat can quickly change your microbes.

 So, What Type of Foods Do They Like?

Oh yes, your stomach microbes have preferences, and they can be super choosy too!

Every person is different, but if you want to improve your digestion, lose weight or look after your general health, there are some broad principles that apply to all.

  1. Eat a wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefer different foods.
  2. Eat more fibre. Most people eat less than they should. Fruit, vegetables, pulses (beans, soybeans), nuts and whole grains (oats, whole wheat, brown rice) feed healthy bacteria.
  3. Avoid highly processed foods. They often contain ingredients that either suppress good bacteria or increase bad bacteria.
  4. Probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt, might encourage more microbes to grow. Eat them if you enjoy them.
  5. Antibiotics kill good bacteria as well as bad. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes afterwards.
  6. If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloating. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.

Some Fun Facts About Gut Microbes

  1. There are more microbes on a person’s hand than there are people on the earth.
  2. According to scientists, microbes are the earth’s oldest residents having been here for over 3.5 billion years!
  3. Less than 5% of microbes cause disease, and our bodies contain over 1 trillion microbes.
  4. Bacteria in the human gut can weigh up to 2 kg!
  5. Analysis of the bacteria in our gut can predict how fat we will get with an accuracy of over 90%
  6. Bacteria may influence our behaviour because of the 100 million neurons that connect our gut to our brain, earning our gut the name second brain. 
  7. You can actually change your gut microbial environment- for better or worse – through the things you eat!

It is my hope that you remain good friends now that you have met.