Clean Eating

Happy Gut,   HEALTHY EVERYTHING

Our Bodies, Ourselves is more than just the title of the classic 1970s women’s health text that has sold millions of copies worldwide. It’s a phrase that reflects how we have been brought up to view who we are – a singular entity that deserves and, in fact, needs protection from the onslaught of disease and germs lurking around every corner. So why is it that though we have embraced antiseptics and antibiotics to control the bacterial population inside and outside of our bodies, we seem to just be getting sicker?

Research is revealing a surprising source for the recent influx of allergies, autoimmune diseases and even mental health issues that plague our population. It turns out that your gastrointestinal system and, by extension, the nearly immeasurable number of bacteria contained within it are in the business of far more than just ensuring your latest meal is properly digested – and our misunderstanding of their role is leading to a lot more than just an upset stomach.

IN THE BEGINNING

“This used to be [a topic] just for gastroenterologists, and now everyone is weighing in; even the media is taking an interest,” says Emeran Mayer, MD, PhD, a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and the Executive Director of the university’s G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience. He is also the author of The Mind-Gut Connection (Harper Wave, 2016), which explains how the gut-brain axis, or the information superhighway between your head and “the second brain” in your gut, controls everything from your emotions to how your body fends off disease. And it is indeed a fascinating area of study.

You’ve probably heard that of all the cells in your body, those that are foreign (think bacteria) outnumber human cells (i.e., you). Up until recently, your gut – a word that collectively refers to your stomach, intestines and other digestive organs such as the liver, pancreas and even your mouth – was said to be home to 100 trillion bacterial cells, a 10:1 ratio of bacteria to human cells. However, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, that ratio was calculated from numbers based on the premise that the average bacterium is about 1,000 timeshuman cells widely vary. Taking that information into account, the researchers revisited the scientific literature behind the ratio of 10:1 and published their findings in in 2016. While they still found that bacteria outnumber human cells, the ratio is actually closer to being equal at 1.3:1. Still, the researchers caution their numbers are only rough estimates and that the numbers can vary slightly from person to person.

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