One of the biggest discoveries about the bacteria on the human body is that they exist everywhere. The average human being carries about 10 bacterial cells for every one human cell they have. That means that you’re mostly bacteria if you just go by population! Almost all of those bacteria are much smaller than our human cells, but the fact that they’re present almost everywhere we look means that they probably play an essential role in many aspects of how the human body works.
Bacteria inhabit all parts of your body, but are especially concentrated in the gastrointestinal tract. We’ve long known that bacteria live in the large intestine, but new research has shown they live in the small intestine where food is digested and even in the highly acidic stomach where scientists used to think no bacteria could survive. Each area has a different population of bacteria with their own special adaptations to help them survive in certain environments.
While a lot of the food we eat can be broken down and absorbed by our body, a significant amount can’t be. Dietary fiber, for example, can’t be digested by the human body but can be digested by bacteria. The bacteria in your body will scavenge whatever they get their hands on that our body leaves behind. In this way, they don’t harm us by stealing nutrients we need. Instead, they help to make sure there’s as little food wasted as possible.
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