School-day science classes remind us that human body is made of cells that form tissues and organ systems. Human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count and the rest of the body is occupied by microscopic colonists. Often, we hear that bacteria and microbes outnumber human cells inside our own body by a ratio of ten to one. But now, researchers say that the human body might contain 10 times lesser bacteria that assumed. Cells and bacteria reside in equal proportions within the body disproving the myth that every living person is composed of 10 times more bacteria than human cells.
Its weird that no matter how much time we spend on cleaning ourselves and taking bath, almost every nook and corner of the human body is covered by these microscopic creatures. By microscopic creatures, I mean the human microbiota that includes fungi, virus, bacteria and archaea (they were initially classified wrongly as bacteria) amongst which bacteria are present innumerable in number-assumed to be so vast we never thought that it is wrong to assume our human body to be more bacteria than human. Until now, we have been underestimating our own humanness.
Microbes are present in our nose, skin, gut and everywhere. Surprisingly, these microscopic creatures are most-present in the oxygen-deprived bowels of our body. While sometimes they make us sick, mostly they live in harmony with humans helping them in their day-to-day functioning of the body. When it comes to human cells, most of our body is covered by red blood cells, although fat and muscle cells make up the majority by mass. An average human body is said to contain around 1013 trillion cells and it is from here we garnered the idea that bacteria are found 10 times more in number than cells. But recent studies nullify this assumption claiming that bacteria are not present all through the alimentary canal but found mostly in the colon only.
The gut contains almost 1014 bacteria which includes the 1011 bacteria present in a gram of feces. We know that most bacteria are present in the colon (volume of 0.4 liters) and by taking into consideration all these values, researchers have proved a ratio for microbial to human cells as 1.3:1 which is not foolproof and conclusive.
Bacterial Effect on Body
The human genome is made up of between 20,000 and 25,000 genes and when genes in our microbiome are added, the resulting numbers are exemplary-between two and 20 million microbial genes. This makes us wonder if we have a second genome (due to microbiome genes) that boost human activity. Humans are a combination of their own DNA and the DNA of their gut microbes. Having so much prominence in our body, it would be absurd to think that these microbes would not affect the body in any way.
Science is unraveling means in which these tiny creatures are transforming health in ways beyond imagination, right from being an important part of digestion, immune system regulation, protecting against diseases, manufacturing vital nutrients and much more.
But, in the process of attacking the bad bacteria and eliminating infectious diseases, we have damaged the good bacteria too and paved way for autoimmune diseases and allergies. For instance, a meal of burger and chocolate can elevate your risk of obesity and also impact the type of microbes that grow in the digestive tract. Our food choices have greatly affected the growth of good bacteria paving way for health problems. The microbiome is also linked to diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, depression and even autism. These diseases play havoc on health and have been discussed in depth at www.firsteatright.com. While family history and lifestyle do play a major role, gut microbes too are involved in the process.
Also, microbial medicine is in the early stages of development and exploring our human microbiome and monitoring them 24*7 will provide us with an Eldorado of worthy information about our health. Its like every teaspoon of stool contain mores data in the DNA of these microbes than the information that would be present in the DVDs. The future is not too far where as soon as you flush, there would be some way to predict whether the human body is going in the right or wrong direction.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.