5 Ways Your Gut Can Affect Your Health

by Allison Bush Editor

Our gut is responsible for a lot more than digesting food--think of it more as your body's control room. For every cell in our body, there are roughly 10 single-celled microbes, most of which live in our digestive tract, performing critical functions.

Baby's growth rate

New research published in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that the composition of microbiota in a newborn baby's gut has been linked to the rate of early infant growth. That supports earlier studies finding that the development of "microbiota" - the body's microbial ecosystem - in an infant can influence the child's likelihood of being obese.

Autoimmune disease prevention

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto found when female mice at high risk of autoimmune (type 1) diabetes were exposed to normal gut bacteria from adult male mice, they were strongly protected against the disease. The findings support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which suggests the increase in autoimmune diseases over the past 50 years is tied to a decrease in microbe exposure.

Your brain

Ever wonder why you feel the sensation of "butterflies" in the stomach when you're nervous? It's because your gut and brain work in tandem - certain species of gut bacteria have been found to influence gene activity in the brain.


Scientists from the U.S. have discovered that a molecule called superoxide, which is produced by the common gut bacteria Enterococcus faecalis, activates signalling pathways that are associated with colon cancer cells.

Weight loss

In The FASEB Journal, scientists show that a deficiency of Toll-like receptor 2 (Tlr2) - used to recognize resident microbes in the intestines - leads to changes in gut bacteria resembling those of lean animals and humans. It also shows that genes controlling TLR2 expression play an important role in GI health and weight management.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.