Digestive Health Explained
Bacteria are normal inhabitants of the digestive tract and essential for overall health. They each have a role in supporting the many functions that take place which help to keep us alive.
Gut flora are microorganisms that normally live in the digestive tract. The average human body consists of about ten trillion bacterial cells, and outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. The majority of bacteria reside in the gut and have a total mass of around 1 kilo with the rest of the microbes’ resident in your system.
Bacteria make up most of the flora in the colon and research shows that the relationship between gut flora and humans, is a symbiotic relationship.
Some of these bacteria possess genes that encode for beneficial compounds the body cannot make on its own, producing vitamins such as biotin and vitamin K for the host. They also train the immune system and play a crucial role in body defence.
In 2008, the Human Microbiome Project was established to characterise the nature of this ecosystem, with one of its goals being to explore the relationship between disease and changes in the human microbiome. This has been an enormously difficult task as many species of bacterial cells in the intestine, do not survive well outside the environment of the gut. To get around this problem, researchers have been studying the DNA and RNA (genetic coding) found within a microbe, rather than the entire cell itself, to determine the sequence of this gene. They found that each commensal bacteria, has its own signature (known as the 16S ribosomal RNA gene), that codes for a particular RNA molecule found in the protein-making machinery of cells.
This discovery is helping to build a picture of what’s living inside us, and to catalogue the entire human microbiome.
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