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The Importance of Your Microbiome

Your microbiome is an astounding collection of microorganisms which comprises of a number of different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. These microorganisms play a vital role in digesting the food you eat and absorbing nutrients. Bacteria make up the bulk of your microbiome – about 30-50 trillion cells. The human body itself contains about 37 trillion human cells, so actually, you’re roughly half bacteria and half human.

The human microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint, made up of hundreds of different types of bacteria; the specific number of bacteria cells varies throughout the day and is constantly turning over. This is good news if you’re trying to improve your gut health, as your microbiome population is easily affected by the introduction of live cultures and different types of food you eat.

The importance of gut health

Your microbiome is so crucial to your overall health that it is now essentially considered as another organ inside your body. The number of good gut bacteria in your microbiome can dictate the ageing process, digestion, immune system, protection against certain diseases, brain function and even your mood.

Here are just a few of the common health conditions which are associated with the microbiome:

How does gut bacteria affect your health?

The strength of your immune system and the extent to which you are protected from diseases including colitis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes type 2, atherosclerosis and obesity, is wholly dependent on the good gut bacteria in your microbiome.

Your body weight and overall metabolism are also determined by good gut bacteria. The bacteria in the gut processes the food you eat and turns it into enzymes and vitamins which are required to stay healthy.

Allergies can also stem from problems inside your microbiome. The immune system is a ‘learning’ system; when you were born, your immune system was essentially a blank slate, ready to develop responses. Ideally, harmful pathogens are attacked and expelled, while beneficial organisms coexist in harmony and help contribute to good health. However autoimmune and allergic conditions can occur when the immune system is not working properly and over-react by mistaking harmless organisms for pathogens.

Why is bacteria good for your digestive system?

Bacteria is required to help break down the many different types of fibre. As human beings, we’re great at breaking down starch, which starts to degrade when we chew our food. However, we’re not so good at breaking down plant fibres.

The complex and branched sugars found in fruits and vegetables pose a challenge for the human body, and to digest them, we have to turn to our buddies the gut bugs. If your system gets depleted in certain strains of bacteria, it will struggle to break down certain types of fibre.

Gut bugs eat the dietary fibre which is left over after the digestive process has been completed. This fibre forms a filter to capture toxins which the body is trying to remove from your system. Recommendations are to eat 30 grams of fibre per day, which should result in three bowel movements daily. A microbiome test can tell you which foods you need to eat in order to boost certain populations of gut bugs inside your system that may be lacking.

When gut bug populations get compromised inside the microbiome, it may result in issues which can affect your digestive system, including:

  • Obesity
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea
  • Diabetes type 2

Healthy bacteria found in your gut

The good bacteria inside your gut helps your gut stay healthy. Your helpful gut bugs interact with both the epithelial cells lining the gut and cells of the immune system to help balance the immune responses and protect your gut from unwanted inflammation.

How does gut bacteria work?

Here’s how your gut bacteria work: say that a disease-causing microbe, like salmonella, gets into your system. The big boss cells in your immune system, called ‘antigen-presenting cells’ give the instruction to your T-cells to mount an appropriate inflammatory response to fight the Salmonella.

But, there’s a problem. An inflammatory immune response, especially in the intestine, can be damaging to the healthy tissue. So your good gut bugs have to step in to help ‘tune down’ the inflammatory response, limiting the damage it can do to the gut.

In a perfect world, the result is a balanced response which can fight off infections like salmonella but is still regulated to prevent damage to the healthy intestinal tissue. It’s a delicate balance!

However, if your gut has been damaged by sugar, stress, antibiotics or environmental toxins – your gut bugs will be compromised. So there will be no balance, no intervention, no reduction in inflammation, and you will see the results in side effects including pain, bloating, IBS, diarrhoea or constipation, as your compromised gut struggles to function.

References

  1. Dr. Edward Group - "Gut Health 101: What Is the Microbiome?". Published by Global Healing Centre on December 22, 2016.
    link to articlehttps://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-is-the-microbiome/
  2. Genetic Science Learning Center - "The Microbiome and Disease". Published by University of Utah on July 31, 2019.
    link to articlehttps://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/disease/
  3. Brown University - "Gut microbiome regulates the intestinal immune system". Published by ScienceDaily on December 18, 2018.
    link to articlewww.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181218123123.htm
  4. Nicholson LB. - "The immune system". Published by National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine on October 26, 2016.
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5091071/
  5. Inman M. - "How Bacteria Turn Fiber into Food". Published by National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine on December 20, 2011.
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243711/
  6. Thursby E, Juge N. - "Introduction to the human gut microbiota". Published by National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine on May 16, 2017.
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433529/