You might be surprised to learn that your body is home to tens of trillions of microorganisms. In fact, your body contains more microbes than it does human cells. While that might sound a bit worrisome, these tiny, single-celled organisms are extremely important for human health. For example, the microbes that live in the gut help with digestion, breaking down foods that the stomach and small intestine cannot digest on their own. The community of microbes that lives in the gut, called the gut microbiota, is unique to each person, and can change dramatically based on changes in diet, the use of antibiotic medications, and numerous other factors.
However, gut microbes are involved in much more than digestion – gut microbes influence social and emotional behaviors, and disruptions in gastrointestinal function have been linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders, depression, and anxiety. Researchers believe that the gut microbiota may be a critical link between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain and that changes in the microbiota could therefore influence brain development and behavior. (more…)