The first thing to know is there are a lot of microbes, and most of them live in your intestinal track. Yes they are small, actually microscopic, and you can’t hear them, unless you notice your stomach gurgling. But did you know there are more microbes living in and on your body than there are human cells? Thirty to fifty trillion is the range, and there are more than 10,000 species. That’s about 2-4 pounds of microbes just in your intestinal track. Wow, that’s a lot of life, and most people don’t even know they exist.
They Keep You Healthy
The second thing to know is these microbes do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to your health. They run your body’s most active chemical factory, making, for example, 80-90% of your serotonin and 50% of your dopamine. These are critical brain chemicals that make you happy, and low levels of these are associated with depression. Microbes cover the inside walls of your intestines and assist with digestion and absorption of nutrients. They actually digest your food and sometimes ferment it, to sort out what should pass through into the blood stream and what should be blocked and excreted from your body. They coat the inside of the intestinal wall, and immune cells coat the outside. Together they form a critical barrier that defends against harmful intruders. Microbes also work in nature, in the soil, in cooperation with plants to create nutrients–nutrients like essential amino acids and enzymes that humans can’t make on their own. Your body must have them to properly make proteins. Plants absorb these from the soil microbes. Humans have to get these nutrients from food.
They Are Underappreciated
The third thing to know is they do not get enough respect. They are largely unknown, universally underappreciated, and commonly harmed by human activities. Most people don’t know they are there, don’t know what harms them, and don’t know what makes them thrive. Fortunately, there are people who do.
They Let You Know When Something Is Wrong
Fourth, they are not wimps. They will let you know when they are not happy. You will get symptoms. Symptoms are the body’s way of telling you something is wrong and needs attention.
The Crew Needs You!
The final thing to know is they need champions, people who stick up for them and teach others how important and special they are. Microbes are living organisms, and because they are small and easy to harm, they need protection. They also deserve respect and appreciation for what they do. Repeatedly harming your crew affects how you feel and compromises your health. If we damage and kill them in our soil and water, the health of the planet and the health of all living things suffers. Connect with your microbes by learning about them and learning how to nurture them. They will shower you with health, vitality, and a level of awareness you never knew was possible.
Harvard Medical School Video on microbes in the stomach.
Dr. Emeran Mayer explains his groundbreaking research into gut-brain interactions.