We all have gut bacteria. It could be good or bad, and we typically have both. If your skin, your digestion, or your mood is out of whack, chances are so is your gut bacteria. While we can take probiotics or eat fermented foods to correct these issues, there are things that you need to know about your lifestyle and your gut bacteria. Below are a list of things that you may not have known about your gut bacteria – and how it can shape your life.

We Are Full Of Bacteria

The gut is home to approximately 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) micro organisms. That’s 10 times more than the number of cells in the human body. In fact, if you were to weigh your gut bacteria, it could weigh as much as 1.5 kg.

Life Itself Influences Gut Bacteria

The diversity of our gut microbiome is influenced by a number of factors including birth (natural versus cesarean-section), the environment, stress, diet and medication. It is understood that each and every one of us has a unique combination of gut bacteria comprising our microbiome. Every time we eat a meal, go outside, kiss someone or take a course of antibiotics, we are affecting the composition of our microbiome.

Bacteria Begins At Birth

When a baby passes through the birth canal and picks up billions of bacteria from their mother’s vagina, the microbiome is formed. For babies born through c-section, bacteria are acquired from the hands of the medics and surrounding environment. Babies born through c-section have higher rates of of asthma, allergies and atopic disease, and this is increasingly being linked to differences in their microbiome to those born through a vaginal birth, who harbor a more diverse array of bacteria.

Our Antibacterial Habits Are A Problem

It used to be thought that there was no such thing as “good” microbes, and that bacteria harmed us and made us ill. As a result, we’ve been blitzing them with excessive cleanliness, antibacterial sprays, and a heavy reliance on antibiotics. The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that by keeping ourselves too germ-free, we’ve been restricting ourselves of the bacteria necessary to keep our microbiome balanced, and this could be having a negative impact on our health, particularly our immune system.

Bad Bacteria Is Easy To Obtain

There are other factors that may also contribute to an unbalanced microbiome. These include chronic stress, infections, alcohol, and a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, junk food and low in fiber. These can all hamper the growth of the “good” bacteria in the gut.

The Gut Is Our “Second Brain”

And the two are intricately linked, hence the expression, a “gut feeling”. The gut bacteria produce an array of neuro-chemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of memory, learning and mood. In fact, at least 80% of our body’s “happy hormone” serotonin is synthesized by our gut bacteria. It has been hypothesized that modifying our gut bacteria could influence anxiety and depression, and this is an area of much ongoing research.