Microflora, or gut flora, are the microorganisms that normally live in the digestive tract and perform a number of useful functions for their hosts.

The average human body, consisting of about ten trillion cells (10,000,000,000,000),and has about ten times that number of microorganisms in the gut. In fact, bacteria make up most of the flora in the colon. Somewhere between 300 and 1000 different species live in the gut, with most estimates at about 500.

Research suggests that the relationship between gut flora and humans is not merely commensal (a non-harmful coexistence), but rather is a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship.

Though people can survive with no gut flora, the microorganisms perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused energy substrates, training the immune system, preventing growth of harmful species,regulating the development of the gut, producing vitamins for the host (such as biotin and vitamin K), and producing hormones to direct the host to store fats.

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Björkstén B, Sepp E, Julge K, Voor T, and Mikelsaar M. 2001. Allergy development and the intestinal microflora during the first year of life. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 108, Issue 4, Pages 516-520. PMID 11590374. Guarner F and Malagelada JR. 2003. Gut flora in health and disease. The Lancet, Volume 361, Issue 9356, 8 February 2003, Pages 512-519. PMID 12583961. Sears CL. 2005. A dynamic partnership: Celebrating our gut flora. Anaerobe, Volume 11, Issue 5, Pages 247-251. PMID 16701579. Steinhoff U. 2005. Who controls the crowd? New findings and old questions about the intestinal microflora. Immunology Letters, Volume 99, Issue 1, 15 June , Pages 12-16. PMID 15894105. University of Glasgow. 2005. The normal gut flora. Available through web archive. Accessed May 22, 2008

About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

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