Gut Health - Introducing The Microbiome
If you aren’t already aware of the importance of the Microbiome, (the tag pulls up almost 53,000 posts on Instagram), read this…..
What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is the collective term for the functional core of gut bacteria, microbes, that reside in the gut.
We can carry up to 2 kg of microbes in our gut.
Two thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors. Some studies have even suggested the makeup of the gut microbiome is influenced by genes.
Research has suggested that a broader diversity and higher concentration of bacteria in gut, the better it is better for human health.
Why is it important?
First up, the science bit —
Digestion - These microbes aid digestion, as well as the production of vitamins, hormones, and essential amino acids.
Immune System - But also, 70-80 per cent of our immune system is located in our gut (Vitamin B and K, made from the microbes play an important part in our immune system). Microbes forms a physical barrier that covers the gut wall, helping to prevent viruses and other nasty microbes entering the body. It also stimulates the lymph system that lives within the gut wall to produce lymphocytes (the white blood cells that fight infections).
Serotonin (happy chemical) - And its not just the immune system95% of serotonin produced by gut bacteria, so links to depression.
And there is ongoing research into the potential role of gut bacteria with autism, some types of cancer, obesity, asthma, eczema and food allergies.
How does it develop?
The level of variation in the gut microbiome between different people and locations across the globe is astonishing.
The first big wave of microbial colonization occurs during birth when microbes from the birth canal are passed to the baby.
Then breast milk has been shown to be a rich source of microbes that aid in milk digestion, (such as Bifidobacterium) and these dominate the microbiome during the first few months after birth.
Once a solid diet is introduced, the microbial species that populate the gut change significantly.
By the time children reach the age of 3 years, their microbiome is fully established and thought to remain relatively stable for life.
Can we improve it?
Since the gut microbiome is influenced by the food we eat and the environment around us, it makes sense that there are ways to make it healthier.
Diet is a major player in determining which microbes take up residence in our guts long-term. Most other civilisations have some kind of probiotics and fermented foods as part of their diet. However, a Western diet, high in fat and refined sugars but low in fiber, is thought to reduce microbial diversity.
The first step is to encourage a healthy gut ecology by eating probiotic foods (that contain the ‘good guy’ bacteria) and prebiotic foods (that the good bacteria like to eat).
Probiotics include fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, kefir (fermented milk), yogurt, kombucha, miso and tempeh.
Get your prebiotics in food including oats, beans, bananas, leeks, kale, rocket, asparagus, garlic, onions and cabbage.
Bone broth has also been proven to be effective. It contains an amino acid called L-Glutamine, which helps repair the fabric of the gut wall.
- Medical news today - Loss of microbial gut diversity a threat to health? Published Sunday 27 August 2017
- Evening Standard - How to have a healthy gut and boost your body's immunity, 19 January 2017
- Evening Standard - How microbiomes can help to improve your gut health, 2 October 2017
- Medical news today - The gut microbiome: How does it affect our health? 11 March 2015