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Our gut carries up to 2kg of microbes, within which there is over a thousand different species and understanding their role in our health is gaining greater and greater interest. Each of us has our our unique population of these bacteria, with no two humans being the same. The environment created in our guts is highly influenced by the first few moments of life – the womb is a sterile environment, so we first encounter bugs during birth, as we are pushed through the vaginal canal. Later, if we are breast-fed, we take in the bacteria in our mother’s milk and having both a vaginal birth and being breast fed gives our gut the best start in life.
So what do they do? Most of us know from yoghurt adverts that bacteria are important in the health of the gut, but did you know that they are responsible for:
– vitamin synthesis
– immune function
– susceptibility to weight gain
and perhaps more surprisingly
– susceptibility to autism and mental health issues
We can boost the health of the good bacteria in our gut by consuming more fruit and vegetables, as they survive on the sugars and fibres that we obtain from them.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com