The microbes in your body that you could not live without

Source: BBC

By Adam Rutherford

It began with what can only be described as an ingenious invention. It’s a fold-out sheet, with sticky tabs at the front and back, like a flattened starfish. The tabs stick to the loo seat. When in place, it forms a kind of hammock onto which the specimen is presented, ready for sampling. I slipped on the rubber gloves to prepare for the procedure.

Once I had left my deposit on the hammock, I took a sample of the sample, with a tiny spoon, fixed to the inside of a blue lid of a test tube. I screwed the lid tightly back on to the top of the plastic tube. I wrapped it all in an icepack I’d frozen earlier, and the precious cargo was ready for dispatch.

The destination – Map My Gut – promised to reveal what microbial life is lurking inside my bowels. I conducted the test for an episode of the BBC radio series The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, exploring how much of our body’s weight is bacteria. In recent years, various findings have suggested that the microbes in our digestive system are far more important to our health and well-being than originally thought. But I’d soon discover that I was failing badly at keeping this bacteria thriving – and that certain diets can transform their fortunes.

We contain, on average, around one thousand different species of bacteria inside our guts. And in total: well, it’s difficult to count, but there are trillions. And they are almost all doing useful work for us.

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