Does this number make your head spin? It’s true: your body hosts approximately 9 bacteria for ever cell! Is that horrifying to you?
An astronomical figure!
Crazy and a little horrifying … but it is reality: you are a walking bacteria megapolis. A megapolis? A planet, a galaxy, a universe!
As a comparison, we about 230 billion stars have been identified in the Milky Way. You host about 430 times more bacteria than the Milky Way hosts stars.
Yes, you are an extraordinary ecosystem.
They are everywhere
There is no point in trying to get rid of them – or to panic, it’s too late for that: bacteria have been invading you since the day you were born.
Where are they? Absolutely everywhere: on your face, under your arms, your hands, under your feet, in your navel, in your mouth – hundreds of species – in your throat and your digestive system…
In short, these micro-squatters nest in the smallest corner of your body, with some notable exceptions. Your brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier. And when they attempt to encrust themselves in your lungs, they are gently escorted towards the exit by the bronchial tubes. “Crazy!” you are probably thinking.
Is it serious, doctor?
Rest assured, the vast majority of the 100,000 billion bacteria that live with you also work for your well-being and your health. You have a symbiotic agreement with them: you offer them lodging and shelter, and in return they provide numerous services for you. The gourmet menu you offer your bacteria is composed of a variety of organic substances, some more appetizing than others: sweating, food waste, sebum…
Your bacteria returns the favor: some produce acidity that to inhibit development of their toxic “cousins” (viruses, microbes,…), some are indispensable to the proper functioning of the digestive system, while others remove excess sebum from your skin.
And these are just a few examples…
«No Man is an Island…”
This popular saying makes perfect sense: without your microbiota(1), your entire bacterial fauna, you would not be reading this article, in fact, you would not be alive!
United, we are stronger, than we are alone. Inside our bodies, it is the same story: bacterial synergies, masterfully orchestrated by nature, have evolved over time to make you stronger.
But, just as in life, “bad” bacteria exist. Most of the time, if you are healthy, there are an insufficient number to do any harm. But once your immune defenses are weakened, you become more vulnerable: they take advantage, multiply and can cause serious trouble.
Do you house the same bacterial fauna as the Dalaï-lama?
Everyone’s microbiota is unique, or almost unique. It varies depending on your diet. Vegetarians and carnivores, for example, do not host the same species. But food isn’t the only element: it has been found that women host more species than men, while the microbiota of children born by cesarian section is not the same as those born by vaginal delivery. And, microbiota vary across the regions of the world.
But, wherever you live or eat, it is important to know that your microbiota is a major ally.
What can we say? Thank you little bacteria!
(1) Microbiota: all microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast or fungus living in a “microbiosm”, meaning a defined setting. Here, the microbiota is all the bacteria that you host. And the microbiosm? It’s you!