A gut feeling: What you need to know about your gut bacteria

Diet and gut health are hot topics these days and it's more than likely you will have heard about gut bacteria and how certain foods and lifestyles can make it healthier, but what does this actually mean and how does it affect us?

Gut wellbeing is dictated by what we call ‘the microbiome’. This is the name for the ecosystem of bacteria that live in our bowel. Think of it as a massive team of little minions working together to keep you alive.

Here are just a few of the jobs those little minions perform:

  • Break down food into smaller components so they are more easily digestible
  • Protect the gut lining against damage and injury
  • Help to modulate bone mass density
  • Aid with fat storage
  • Help to form new blood vessels
  • Develop and train the immune system (did you know that approximately 80% of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system?)
  • Modify our nervous system
  • Help breakdown medicines we ingest
  • Help absorb vitamins (e.g. B12 and K)


There are more than ten times the bacteria in your gut than human cells – that is a whopping 10:1 ratio of bacteria to cells! There are thousands of different species of bacteria living in our guts, and as much as 100,000 to 1,000,000,000,000 in our lower bowel. There are far more here than in the stomach and upper intestinal tract as these environments are far too acidic for bacteria to live.

Ultimately, what we want for better health is more of the good bacteria and less of the bad! A gut populated with lots of good bacteria improves health by regulating our immune systems and strengthening our stomach lining, whilst also helping to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Bacteria populations that live in the gut are a combination of both good and bad bacteria; a balance between the two is necessary for an optimal state of health. They help with digestion, detoxification, metabolism and ensuring balanced immunological responses to potential allergens.

That said, though we term certain bacteria as bad, sometimes they can work in our favour. No, really! Have a read of this fascinating story about the earliest work in identifying that gut bacteria may be beneficial to our health, and the development of a medicine that we still use today.

If the proportion of good bacteria in our gut is out of balance, then the bad bacteria moves in, and unfortunately, they multiply faster than the good guys. If bad bacteria are allowed to attach to our gut lining and multiply then our health can be compromised.

So what factors can impact our gut bacteria, and by extension, our microbiome?

Tune in for part 2 next week!


In the meantime, if you’d like to schedule an appointment with Not Just Backs, do give us a call on 01722 512 043. After all, staying healthy on the inside is just as important as the outside. 




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