I Am Only 9 Percent Human: What’s in My Gut

American Gut study, 101 things in 1001 days

{Previous post: Give gut.}

When I discovered that I am only 9 percent human, my curiosity compelled me to learn more about the microbes that outnumber my cells ten to one. These little buddies and I are a complex system of organisms making our way through the world. My microbes are helping me keep out invaders, fight off infections, digest my food, and adapt to changes in my environment.

I donated a swab of poo from my gut along with $99 and received information on the microbes living within me and how they compare to those occupying the guts of thousands of others.

Feed Me, or I’ll Eat You

The American Gut project is learning about what’s in our guts by collecting samples and sharing the data with the world. So far, there is a lot of data, and the conclusions that can be drawn from these data are still to come, but there is preliminary research.

We hear a lot about the outsides of Americans, but Americans’ guts seem to be less healthy than the guts of people eating more traditional diets around the world. Diets high in processed foods, low in fiber, and lacking in nutrients, as well as the possible overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners, have been reducing the diversity of the microbes in Americans’ guts. And just like losing diversity in an ecosystem in the larger world is bad, it’s bad in your gut too.

That lack of microbial diversity may be related to a recent increase in allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases, as well as a boatload of diseases that are becoming known as Western diseases.

New research is looking into whether gut microbes influence people’s moods. There is also the possibility that microbes are basically saying, “Feed me, or I’ll eat you” in a game of microbial blackmail, according to Jeff Leach: “Too little fiber could starve the bacteria we want around. ‘When we starve our bacteria they eat us,’ Leach says. ‘They eat the mucus lining – the mucin in our large intestine.’”

I have only scratched the surface here; see the links at the bottom of this post for more information.

So What’s in My Gut?

American Gut Study results

I have a higher than average number of Firmicutes. I have higher than average numbers of:

  • Paraprevotella – genus of larger Bacteroides taxa
  • Ruminococcus – digesters of cellulose common in ruminants
  • Faecalibacterium – low levels found in Crohn’s, so a high level is possibly positive (?)
  • Lachnospiraceae – type of Firmicutes, Ruminococcus is a subset of this group

I have lower than average levels of some groups – such as Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Tenericutes. Diverse ecosystems are more resilient to stresses, so this may be negative (?).

 My sample contained a rare taxa: Genus cc-115.

Since the research is so new, there are not clear conclusions that can be drawn from these data, but it was interesting to be a small part of this important research.

No word on whether the cobra is still lurking in my gut.

Further reading:

Related post:

#20 (101 things in 1001 days): Give blood again. Give gut.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days, and writing my memoirs. I am a teacher and writer living in Connecticut.
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8 Responses to I Am Only 9 Percent Human: What’s in My Gut

  1. Pingback: Give Gut | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  2. Hi Mary,
    I’m honored to have my article on the microbiome included with articles from NPR, The Human Food Project and The New York Times. I enjoyed seeing your results from the The American Gut project. I soon be posting mine…

  3. This is, for me just a little too much information. Me and my gut have a truce: I do what it wants, it doesn’t do anything really nasty to me.
    Marilyn Armstrong recently posted..RICH PASCHALL – A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTIONMy Profile

  4. Hi Marcy,

    Well that is interesting although it’s a shame we don’t know more about what it all means!

    Just came to comment on your decluttering post but comments are turned off. Lol re that bit of wood – surely something the kids made?

    I cleared out a couple of cupboards too. I put it off for so long which caused a lot of angst and when I fianlly did it it really didn’t take that long and I felt great. Lots more decluttering to be done though – there always is.

    So excited your quest is nearly over. Well done for getting there and persisting.

    I wish you all the best over the hols and in 2014 and look forward to continuing to watch you and your blog grow and evolve :)
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot recently posted..52 Exercises No.51: Dance Show and Dealing With AnxietyMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks Annabel! Wishing you happy holidays and a great 2014. Thanks, too, for the heads up on the comments being turned off. (I have no idea why.)

  5. Abby says:

    Whoa… I’d not heard of this. Interesting!

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