You are your microbes – Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin

You are your microbes – Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin

Translator: Andrea McDonough
Reviewer: Bedirhan Cinar Being human, we each view ourselves as a unique and independent individual, but we’re never alone! Millions of microscopic beings inhabit our bodies, and no two bodies are the same. Each is a different habitat for microbial communities: from the arid deserts of our skin, to the villages on our lips, and the cities in our mouths. Even every tooth is its own distinctive neighborhood, and our guts are teaming metropolises of interacting microbes. And in these bustling streets of our guts, we see a constant influx of food, and every microbe has a job to do. Here’s a cellulolytic bacteria, for example. Their one job is to break down cellulose, a common compound in vegetables, into sugars. Those simple sugars then move along to the respirators, another set of microbes that snatch up these simple sugars and burn them as fuel. As food travels through our digestive tract, it reaches the fermentors who extract energy from these sugars by converting them into chemicals, like alcohol and hydrogen gas, which they spew out as waste products. Deeper in the depths of our gut city, the syntrophs eke out a living off the fermenters’ trash. At each step of this process, energy is released, and that energy is absorbed by the cells of the digestive tract. This city we just saw is different in everyone. Every person has a unique and diverse community of gut microbes that can process food in different ways. One person’s gut microbes may be capable of releasing only a fraction of the calories that another person’s gut microbes can extract. So, what determines the membership of our gut microbial community? Well, things like our genetic makeup and the microbes we encounter throughout our lives can contribute to our microbial ecosystems. The food we eat also influences which microbes live in our gut. For example, food made of complex molecules, like an apple, requires a lot of different microbial workers to break it down. But, if a food is made of simple molecules, like a lollipop, some of these workers are put out of a job. Those workers leave the city, never to return. What doesn’t function well are gut microbial communities with only a few different types of workers. For example, humans who suffer from diseases like diabetes or chronic gut inflamation typically have less microbial variety in their guts. We don’t fully understand the best way to manage our individual microbial societies, but it is likely that lifestyle changes, such as eating a varied diet of complex, plant-based foods, can help revitalize our microbial ecosystems in our gut and across the entire landscape of our body. So, we are really not alone in our body. Our bodies are homes to millions of different microbes, and we need them just as much as they need us. As we learn more about how our microbes interact with each other and with our bodies, we will reveal how we can nurture this complex, invisible world that shapes our personal identity, our health, and our well-being.

99 Replies to “You are your microbes – Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin”

  1. so each person is an ecosystems for little microbes?  that is kinda cool to think about but also a bit odd. as much as I liked the info in this TED ED video the animation could have been a little bit better. please fix the faces. 

  2. so don't be lonely for Valentines,you are never alone 🙂 Your body loves you and you  have microbes working for you everyday <3


  4. This video makes the story about the man who is always drunk without drinking any alcohol make so much more sense! When he eats high concentrations of carbohydrates, he must have an over-abundance of "fermenter microbes"!

  5. "eat variety of plant-based foods"… Is this a REAL science or vegetarianism lurking beneath? Where is the research references please?

  6. Happy to see this short on the microbiome. I would be even happier if you change the graphics of the food held by the people. Only 2 "whole" foods appear; the apple and the watermelon. The rest appeared to be fast food; which definitely aren't feeding the gut microbes well. Also, can you change the lollypop in both places? I believe that soda pop consumption outranks lollypop consumption as a source of simple sugars and in the rise of chronic illness. Maybe you could use the soda pop container with the straw previously drawn. I think the dialogue and image would be clearly understood by kids.

  7. 1:46 eww! Who eats with their mouth open! It's so unsettling. No one cares nor wants to know what your eating and how you eat it. The food isn't so big that you can't chew it with your mouths closed. Eww!

  8. 2:06 his nose is so big it looks like he's "digging for gold" [picking your nose] instead he's scratching his head lol


    Bacteria communicate in the same ways our neurons communicate.

    Could this mean that our microbiomes are conscious or part of what creates our consciousness? Perhaps consciousness as we experience it is the result of the network not only between our neurons but also between our neurons and microbiome and between microbes?

    If this is true then does that mean there is an "afterlife" of sorts, since our microbiome survives the death of our body? If so then this may be a good idea NOT to be cremated, since cremation kills your microbiome. Green burial (burial with no chemicals) is a better bet both to be ecofriendly and because chemicals would do some damage to the microbiome even though they wouldn't destroy it.

  10. Chinese don’t eat like that. If you was trying to draw a Chinese character. We use bowls and plates. Well at least chopsticks is true.

  11. So when u fell alone think that u have many microbes in ur body n in the night when u see a horror movie n no one in ur home then don't worry u have ur microbe

    Jai microbes

  12. Please make a video about bacteriophages. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssseeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. I love TED-Ed they teach me so much and have an answer to almost anything there content is amazing and really well made and thought out

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