We have a lot of bacteria living in our guts, or intestines. Your body needs gut bacteria to help it break down food. These bacteria are part of the gut microbiome. A microbiome is the collection of microbes in a particular place. Your gut's microbiome has hundreds of types of bacteria. The gut microbiome plays a role in nutrition. It can affect our health in many other ways, too. 

Poop Is Everywhere, But That's A Good Thing

Throughout our lives, we collect bacteria. You start when you are born. You collect bacteria when you pass through your mother's birth canal. Your mother's milk has bacteria, too. These bacteria help break down some of the substances in milk. Milk also gives our microbes something to eat. 

By the time kids turn three, their microbiomes are fully formed. This means that they have come in contact with a large number of fecal particles. These are particles of poop. According to scientists, the environment is pretty much coated in fecal particles. It sounds gross, but it is a good thing. We collect bacteria. They provide us with vitamins. They help us fight infections. They make chemicals that help us stay happy and healthy. 

Junk Food Can Kill Off Good Bacteria

Our bacteria protect us from illnesses. But recently, scientists say that illnesses have increased in the population. Diseases like diabetes have increased. So have allergies and asthma. Scientists think this means something is wrong with the bacteria in our guts. 

The problem might be a leaky digestive tube. It separates the gut and the rest of the body. Bacteria keep this tube healthy. Without the right bacteria, it breaks down. Toxic bacteria enter the blood. This sends a signal to the immune system. The immune system protects the body. It thinks there are invaders, so it attacks. This causes health problems that last for a long time. 

Scientists say that our microbiomes are not what they used to be. It's because people eat too much junk food. They also are using too many antibiotics. These are medicines that fight bacterial infections. But they can wipe out good bacteria, too. A combination of these factors might be the reason for many modern diseases. 

Exercising, Eating Fiber-Rich Foods Can Help

How can you keep your microbiome healthy? Scientists and doctors say that we should eat healthy foods. Fermented foods are foods in which the molecules are broken down by yeast or bacteria. Examples include yogurt and miso soup. These are good for us. Fiber-rich foods also keep us healthy. Examples are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Exercise helps your microbiome too. 

The more bacteria you pick up, the better it is for you. So, go outside more. Meet new people, pet the dog, dig in the garden, and play in the dirt.

 

Plural Noun

(singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

die-off
Noun

a sudden sharp decline of a population of animals or plants that is not caused directly by human activity

ghrelin
Noun

a 28-amino-acid peptide hormone that is secreted primarily by stomach cells with lesser amounts secreted by other cells (as of the pancreas) and acts to stimulate appetite and the secretion of growth hormone

microbiome
Noun

microorganisms and genetic material present in or on a specific environment.

oligosaccharide
Noun

short chains (usually three to ten) of sugars (monosaccharide units)

plague
Noun

very infectious, often fatal, disease caused by bacteria.

prebiotic
Noun

a substance and especially a carbohydrate (such as inulin) that is nearly or wholly indigestible and that when consumed (as in food) promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract

probiotic
Noun

a microorganism (such as lactobacillus) that when consumed (as in a food or a dietary supplement) maintains or restores beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract

serotonin
Noun

a phenolic amine neurotransmitter C10H12N2O that is a powerful vasoconstrictor and is found especially in the brain, blood serum, and gastric mucous membrane of mammals