Our body is composed of different microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that potentially impact both health and diseases. Recent studies have made significant improvements in characterizing the gut microbiome’s influence on our health.
These microbes reside in the large intestine of our body. Several of these microorganisms are beneficial as they protect us from different diseases.
But how do gut microbes impact our health? What does science say about the different implications of the gut microbiome? This article will break down the meaning of the gut microbiome, its effect on your health, and how you can sustain a healthy microbiome.
What is Gut Microbiome?
Our body is a host for trillions of microorganisms and their genetic materials. The cumulative genetic material of all microbes that reside and thrive inside the human body is called the microbiome.
The majority of these microbes exist in a small pocket (cecum) of your large intestine. These are referred to as the gut microbiome.
Studies indicate that thousands of bacteria are present in our gut, and each of them plays a crucial role in our health.
Why is Gut Microbiome Important?
Microbes have been residing in your body since birth and are evolving continuously. These gut microbes have become an integral part of your health. Recent advances have revealed that metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity are linked to profound changes in the microbiota.
Experts also believe that understanding the nature of these gut microbiome can help treat some major diseases, improve longevity and infant health.
The gut microbiome is essential for;
- Facilitating digestion of non-digestible food
- Strengthening your immune system
- Removal of toxic pathogens from your body
- Nerve cell regulation in controlling your mood
- Cell growth and differentiation
Benefits of Gut Microbiome
Each person’s gut microbiota is different. Some of it is inherited through genetics, however, your environment, diet, and lifestyle, influence it to a large extent. Here are a few ways in which the microbiome benefits your daily life:
Helps in Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients
The gut Microbiome helps in the absorption of nutrients and production of energy from the food we consume. They break down complex food molecules and also allow the fermentation of non-digestible substances like dietary fiber.
The gut microbiome is essential in adults and also plays a vital role in the nutrition of babies. Studies revealed that one of the first bacteria to grow inside a baby’s intestine helps digest healthy sugars present in breast milk. These bacteria are called Bifidobacterial, and it plays an essential role in the growth of the baby.
Strengthens Your Immune System
As the gut microbiome starts growing from birth, it helps build defense mechanisms and adaptive immunity. Your gut microbiome regulates immune homeostasis, which prevents the occurrence of several autoimmune diseases.
Your gut microbiome triggers a response to invading pathogens and regulates your health. Inability to regulate these responses can result in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), metabolic syndromes, and allergies. A person’s microbiome influences their susceptibility to infections and also contributes to gut diseases.
Controls Brain Health
There is a significant connection between the gut and the brain, referred to as the gut-brain axis. According to experts, your gut produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, and dopamine, which regulate your mood.
Michael D. Gershon, a professor of pathology and cell biology and also known as the “father of neurogastroenterology” believes that the gut is our second brain. He explains that there is a bidirectional connection between the gut and the brain
Hence, for a healthy gut, you need to have balanced emotions. Also, your gut microbiome affects your mental health and quality of life.
How Does Gut Microbiome Impact Your Health?
There are various methods through which the gut microbiome directly or indirectly impacts different aspects of your health.
Impact on Your Weight
Most of the bacteria present in your gut benefit your health. However, having too many harmful microbes can lead to an imbalance called gut dysbiosis.
The imbalance of the gut microbiome can cause weight gain. An interesting study indicated the difference between the gut microbiome of identical twins had an impact on their appearance. One of these twins was obese, and the other one had a lean physique.
Several studies have derived a clear connection between the low diversity of microbiota and obesity. Hence, we can say dysbiosis or impairment of healthy functioning of gut microbiota leads to obesity and other metabolic complications.
Affects Gut Health
Your microbiome can also impact your gut health and influence the development of intestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). During IBS, you may experience bloating, cramps, and severe abdominal pain.
The microbes in your gut produce various gases and other chemicals that contribute to intestinal discomfort. Lower bacterial diversity has been seen in people with IBS and coeliac disease. Smokers with Crohn’s disease have an even lower gut diversity.
A clear link between gut microbes’ diversity and reduced incidence of diseases indicates that a gut ecosystem with a rich species of microbes is more adept against environmental influences.
Improves Heart Health
Studies indicate that patients display improvement or reduction of certain bacterial groups in their gut microbiome during cardiometabolic diseases. This data suggests that gut microbes can affect heart health.
Modulating your gut microbiota with the use of prebiotics is believed to evoke a favorable impact on microbial function. It also improves glycemic control and plasma lipid profiles leading to a cardioprotective effect.
A gut bacterium called lactobacilli might help reduce cholesterol when taken as a probiotic. These bacteria also help seal gaps between the intestinal cells and prevent leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which bacteria and toxins can leak through the intestinal walls.
Your gut also contains unhealthy species of bacteria that produce trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a chemical that causes blocked arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes.
How can you Improve Your Gut Microbiome?
There are different ways through which you can improve your gut microbiome, such as:
- Eat different varieties of foods: Consuming a diverse range of foods can improve the diversity of your gut microbiome. Include legumes, fruits, beans, and other foods that contain fiber. It can boost the growth of healthy Bifidobacteria.
- Add fermented food to your daily diet: Your diet should include fermented foods like yogurt, curd, and kombucha. These fermented foods contain healthy bacteria like lactobacilli that reduce the occurrence of disease-causing bacteria in your gut.
- Increase the consumption of whole grains: Whole grains such as barley, brown rice, and buckwheat are rich in fiber and provide beneficial carbohydrates. These are digested by gut bacteria and provide beneficial effects in weight management, cancer risk, and other disorders.
- Include polyphenols in your diet: Foods like dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, and olive oil contain plant compounds called polyphenols. The microbiome breaks down these compounds to promote healthy bacterial growth.
- Follow healthy habits. Consuming nutritious food, exercising regularly, and quality sleep contributes to healthy gut microbiota.
Digital Healthcare Solution for Gut Microbiome Imbalance
Every individual is different and has a unique composition of the gut microbiome. This unique biomarker can help in planning personalized therapy and nutrition plans. With the help of biomarkers, digital healthcare solutions can provide accurate diagnosis and treatment plans for the disease.
Digital healthcare company offers digitally enabled personalized obesity and obesity-related gut and other health management solutions. Digital therapeutic devices empower people to take control of their health with a balanced gut microbiome.
Your gut microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining your health and nutrition. It works collectively to control your digestion and influence your immune system, weight, and heart health. Some bacteria promote good health, whereas some contribute to diseases.
An imbalance of the gut microbiome can contribute to diseases like diabetes, high blood sugar, and other health disorders. Eating a wide variety of fruits or food rich in fiber can prevent these diseases and promote health with the growth of healthy microbes.