If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t ever give your belly button a second thought. Sure, most of us know that its something to do with the umbilical cord left over from birth but usually not much more than that. However, there are some strange facts about this forgotten part of your body that will probably surprise you.
It’s actually a scar
When a baby is born, there is usually a triumphant moment where the doctor, or the father (if his hands are steady enough) gets to cut the life-supplying umbilical cord that has been connecting the infant to the placenta over the past nine months. Usually, a little knob remains that falls off in about a week or so. This shriveled piece of the umbilical cord leaves behind an indent that we have come to refer to as a belly button. In reality, it is merely a “belly scar.” But that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Pregnancy can turn innies into outies
Occasionally, a pregnant woman will experience a unique belly button phenomenon as her stomach stretches. The expanding abdomen can sometimes cause an innie belly button to turn into an outie for the remainder of the pregnancy, with it returning to its former state following the birth of the baby.
Lint is normal…kinda
If you are one of those people who habitually check your belly button for lint, you are most likely a hairy middle-aged man according to a study. This is because lint is primarily developed from the abrasive rubbing of stomach hair on clothing fiber which grabs the lint from your shirt or pants and stores it for later. Of course, anyone can be subject to belly button lint, but the development is more common among men than women.
Fun fact: Australian hospital worker Graham Barker has been collecting his own navel fluff in jars every day since 1984. This dedication has secured him a place in history in the Guinness Book of Records for the worlds largest collection of navel lint. What an accomplishment, huh?
Belly button plastic surgery is a thing
Yes, it seems like doctors can pretty much alter any part of your body to suit your desires. But why anyone would care enough to change the shape of their belly button is beyond me. For those who hate their outie or just want to change their navel into an oval, rounded, or T-shape with a little hooding (which are apparently the sexiest belly button shapes. Who knew?) cosmetic surgery can now fulfill your wildest belly button dreams.
A startling array of bacteria
Even if you live a hygienic life and shower regularly, your belly button is still a hotbed of teeming biodiversity. According to the Belly Button Diversity project started in 2011 by a group of researchers at North Carolina University, the microbiome of the belly button is more interesting than previously thought. They used RNA sequencing to study the navels of over 60 individuals and discovered an astonishing 2,368 different species of bacteria in their belly buttons alone.
Though this may sound gross, the bacteria is actually there to protect your body and could be an essential line of defense against pathogens. “We know that without these microbes our immune systems won’t function properly,” says Dr. Rob Dunn, co-author of the study. “In fact, this collection of microbes must have a certain composition – must form a certain microbial ecosystem – in order for our immune system to function properly. This work is a significant step toward helping us understand which species are the most important players in those ecosystems.”
Outies are in the minority
If you have an outie belly button, you are about as rare as a left-handed person. Only 10 percent of the population have outies. Contrary to a popular myth, this has nothing to do with the way the doctor cut your umbilical cord and is simply related to how your scar healed when you were an infant.
It’s an entryway for gut surgery
As more doctors are seeking to develop less intensive methods of surgery for common procedures such as gallbladder removal, the belly button has risen in popularity as a way to access the gut without serious scarring. This procedure is known as laparoscopic surgery, a surgical procedure where doctors make a small incision in the navel to insert a telescope-like tool called a laparoscope that allows them to see inside the gut with minimal invasiveness.