THE HEALTHY TRUTH: What if I told you there was a huge group of living organisms inside the human body we're only just beginning to understand?
Combined, they weigh as much as the brain, almost 1.5 kilograms.
It's called our Microbiome, basically all the bacteria in our gut.
Only recently have scientists put these bugs under the microscope, and the results are surprising.
- About The Healthy Truth
- The truth about male circumcision
- SIDS and co-sleeping: is there a risk?
- Is the Paleo diet healthy?
- The truth behind food allergies
Early research shows they are much more important to our overall health than we ever realised, and it all begins at birth.
"The Microbiome is a whole bunch of bacteria that gets set up in your body that acts like a defence shield, [which] actually gets seeded at birth, so as you're born through the vagina you gather a whole lot of bacteria which you ingest," Professor Hannah Darlen from Epigenetic Impact at Childbirth Research Group said.
The human body is a super-organism, made up of our individual cells coexisting with our bacteria.
In fact, bacterial cells outnumber our human cells 10 to 1 - so we are actually 90 per cent bugs.
When a baby is born, their first exposure to the world of germs is through the birth canal.
This early interaction extends from birth to the early months of our lives.
"[Breastfeeding] is absolutely critical for the optimal growth of the newborn, there is no doubt about that," Neonatal Pediatrician Dr Howard Chilton said.
- Can you train your brain to lose weight?
- Sugar: the next big killer?
- Concerns rise over child anorexia crisis
“Of late, there is even more information about the baby biome, the gut bacteria, and the way that plays a part in your good health throughout your life,” he said.
The question posed by the latest research and presented in the film 'Microbirth' is that if a baby does not pass through the birth canal, are we producing a generation of children who are missing vital bacteria?
“Being born normally through the vagina is your first seeding of bugs that are really important for life,” Professor Darlen said.
Also important, is early skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.
For babies born by C-section, researchers are exploring if they are at higher risk of chronic diseases later in life.
There's no definitive answer just yet.
Given the important role of the bacteria in the natural balance of all our systems, it's exciting to think that the more we discover, the greater the possibilities of harnessing our Microbiome to improve our health, starting at birth and continuing throughout our lives.