The bacteria in our bodies – on the skin, in the gut, in the throat – constitute a microorganism of their own called the microbiome. Just like the rest of our organism, the latter has to be fed. We call the bacteria’s nutrition probiotics: i.e. what exists before the bacteria’s life (“bio”).
But what do bacteria feed on? What keeps them alive?
We’ve always assumed that what we eat has an impact on bacterial diversity and thus on our health. And this is actually the case. However, scientists have now found that bacteria do not only rely on what we eat directly, but also produce some of the nutrients crucial for themselves.
This was reported by Thomas Postler and Sankar Ghosh, microbiologists from Columbia University, New York, in an article for the Journal “Cell Metabolism”. During studies in mice, researchers had found 179 different metabolites (i.e. intermediates or products of metabolism) in the rodents’ guts, yet 48 of these had been absent from the lab animals’ feed. They were hence only formed in mice’s digestive system. “Subsequent experiments demonstrated that 13 of these substances were most likely entirely produced by bacteria”, wrote Hanno Chaurisius, a German journalist, in a relevant article published by Süddeutsche Zeitung.
By implication, this shows yet again that we can influence the growth and the diversity of bacteria, and on the latter’s microorganism by our diet. During the digestion process, the bacteria produce substances which help, among others, cells in the intestinal wall to recover and in this way protect our bloodstream from gut bacteria.