Great news, everyone: the afterlife exists! Not necessarily for your consciousness or soul or whatever you call the nonphysical part of your body -- jury's still out on that -- but for the trillions of bacteria that inhabit your mortal coil. They'll still be partying long after you kick the bucket.
No, the bacterial afterlife isn't the main reason you should be eating fermented foods, but it does hint at the complex and symbiotic relationship your human cells have with bacterial cells. This relationship is the ultimate reason why you should be chugging kombucha and kefir on the regular, and it can be summed up with one word. That word is...
"Microbiome." Specifically, the trillions of bacteria living inside you.
If you don't know what "microbiome" means, think back to elementary school, when you learned about biomes like the rainforest, tundra, and grassland. These communities of plants and animals give rise to incredible biodiversity -- and the human microbiome does the same thing on a smaller (you might even say "micro") level.
"'Microbiome' is a term used to describe the dynamic ecological system within and on our bodies, made up of bacteria," says Saba Afshar, a University of Queensland medical student studying nutrition and diet.
Hundreds of thousands of types of bacteria flourish all over the world, in environments ranging from deep-sea hydrothermal vents to gas station bathrooms. But only about 1,000 types of bacteria are found exclusively in humans, according to a report by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Those bacteria really like living in people (to the extent that a microorganism can like anything).
The proof: you have about 37 million human cells and 100 trillion bacterial cells. Bacterial cells outnumber human cells in your body by a three-to-one margin, according to the ASM's report. So does this mean that every human being is a conglomerate of weird, creepy bugs, much like Oogie Boogie Man of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame?
Yes. Yes, it does.