You are actually more than you.
You literally have trillions of guests living on you and in you, and most of them should be benefiting your health. By guests I mean microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses. Of these, we seem to know the most about bacteria, particularly where they live and how they influence your gut health.
It has been estimated that there are about 100 trillion bacteria in your body, with hundreds of different species residing in your gut. Some say theres up to 2kg worth of bacteria found in your large intestine alone.
These gut bacteria, also known as the gut microbiota, deliver us a number of benefits, including:
Assist with further food digestion
Produce certain vitamins and fatty acids (that are essential for health)
Defend against invading pathogens
Play a major role in our immune function
Reduce our risk from chronic disease (including obesity)
As well as many many other functions
Your gut is unique
Each individual person has a unique gut microbiota profile, meaning they have varying types and amounts of certain bacteria, plus their certain bacteria act in different ways.
Basically for you, your gut microbiota is unique, just like your fingerprint.
No two fingerprints are the same, nor are two gut microbiotas.
There are a number of factors that influence our gut microbiota variations, and these variations are pre-dominantly founded early in life, particularly during and after birth. This is a significant point, which should not be skimmed over.
During pregnancy, your mothers health played a major role in how your gut microbiota was going to develop, and from the point of birth until about the age of 2 or 3, your gut microbiota was basically set. In other words, after the age of 2 or 3, your gut microbiota foundations have been ingrained, and in essence, it can't really be changed all too much.
Some of the factors that influence the variations in each individuals gut microbiota include:
Gestational age (pre-term birth or full-term birth)
Mode of delivery (vaginal delivery or C-section)
Types of feeding (breast-fed or formula fed)
Weaning period (cessation of breastfeeding and introduction to solids)
Environmental factors (e.g. antibiotic use, pet-ownership, outdoor exposure, siblings)
Later on in adult life, other factors can also influence the variations in our gut microbiota, but not as much. These include:
Body mass index (healthy weight verse underweight or overweight)
Diet (e.g. fibre content, prebiotics, probiotics, high fat, high protein, nutrient adequacy, hydration)
Exercise and physical activity
Environmental factors (e.g. antibiotic use, pet-ownership, outdoor exposure, human contact)
The variations between our unique gut microbiota profiles are considered physiological, meaning they can either favour our health and provide benefit to us or impact on our health and influence the onset of illness and disease.
If you would like more detailed information on this, please send me a message.