Nowadays, few people doubt the major role of the trillions of intestinal microbes – known as the gut microbiota – in terms of our health. Have you ever asked yourself, however, what do microbes do, and how can you keep them happy? The answers to these questions, and a few others, are revealed in this infographic from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP).

First, the infographic covers the basics: the gut microbiota live with us in a mutually beneficial relationship. These bacteria are found especially in the colon, and while scientists don’t know what makes the ‘ideal’ gut microbiota, they know without a doubt that they’re important to our health.

Importantly, the gut microbiota help harvest energy from foods and protect against pathogens. But the activities of the gut microbiota are not limited to the gut.  As 75% of the immune system is located in the gut, the microbiota also participate in strengthening the immune system and they exert systemic effects–even affecting the brain, via the gut-brain axis (in part, through hormones).

For our gut microbiota to be satisfied, it needs a varied diet, responsible use of antibiotics,  and physical activity

Don’t disturb them, though! A disturbed (dysbiotic) gut microbiota is associated with a range of diseases, notably those associated with lifestyle factors. But scientists don’t yet know if the dysbiosis is a cause or a consequence of these diseases.

The lifestyle factors that help us keep our gut microbiota happy include the consumption of a diverse diet that includes probiotics and prebiotics, avoidance of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and regular exercise.

This infographic is in English only – but you can check out our related infographic here.