What is Gut Microbiome and why is it important for your health?
Gut microbes, gut microbiota, gut microbiome, gut bacteria, gut bugs. These terms seem to be popping up everywhere. So what does it all mean and why is it important?
Microorganisms (or microbes for short) are microscopic organisms,
meaning we usually can’t see them with the naked eye. Any community of microbes
living together in one environment is called a ‘microbiota’. And all of the
genes of these microbes are called a ‘microbiome’. But often these terms are
used interchangeably. We all have our own individual microbiota/microbiome.
Although you can’t see them, there are trillions and trillions of tiny living organisms living all over your body and in your gut. In fact, there are roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body.
Why are they important?
Microbiome are extremely important for your gut, heart, brain and almost every other organ in your body. But unfortunately, these important microbes can be affected by overusing antibiotics, hand sanitizers, bad diets and general ‘Western’ lifestyles, which may be damaging our overall health.
Most of your bodily microbes live in your gut. This is because it is
warm, moist, has very little oxygen (which most gut bugs don’t like) and has a
constant stream of nutrients passing down through it. Your gut is full of
fungi, viruses and bacteria, which all have different jobs to do and all work
together. In general, healthier people have much more diverse gut microbiomes
(in other words, many more different types of gut microbes) than unhealthier
What do they do?
All of these microbes help to control your blood sugar and cholesterol, prevent you from getting infections, control the calories that you absorb and store, communicate with your nervous system and brain, influence your bone strength and hundreds of other functions. From a diet perspective though, one of their most important jobs is to digest fibre which keep your gut healthy and can even regulate how hungry you feel.
So as you can see, it is important that we keep our gut healthy and
happy. We want as many different types of microbes in our gut to carry out all
of these important jobs. This is why it is so important to eat as many
different types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans as
possible as they are high in fibre and help your gut microbes to grow.
What are Pre and Probiotics?
While PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS sound similar, they are very different and have different roles in the digestive system.
- Probiotics are live beneficial
bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in
foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and others.
Probiotics are also available in pill form and as an added ingredient in
products like yogurt and health drinks.
- Prebiotic fibre is a non-digestible part of
foods like bananas, onions and garlic, the skin of apples, beans, and many
others. Prebiotic fibre goes through the small intestine undigested and is
fermented when it reaches the large colon.
This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (including
probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in
our gut that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk.
Benefits of PROBIOTICS
The beneficial effects of probiotics have been widely demonstrated. Health professionals often recommend probiotics in supplement form to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to repopulate the colon with desirable bacteria after the course of antibiotics has wiped out both beneficial and undesirable bacteria.
Some find taking probiotics can combat gastrointestinal side effects of
the medication and reduce the bacterial growth leading to yeast infections.
Since each body is different, it is necessary to determine which
probiotics will be helpful to one’s own system. In addition, it is
important to make sure the bacteria in probiotic supplements are alive.
Probiotic bacteria are fragile and can easily be killed by stomach acid,
time, and heat.
“The biggest influence you can have on the state of your gut lining, and
a healthy microbiome, is your diet—which you control.”
— Jeannette Hyde, Nutritional Therapist BSc., a leading nutritional
therapist, regular BBC commentator, and author of The Gut
Makeover and The Gut Makeover Recipe Book.
Benefits of PREBIOTICS
Researchers have found that prebiotics are helpful in increasing the helpful bacteria already in the gut that reduce disease risk and improve general well-being. Prebiotic fibre is not as fragile as probiotic bacteria because it is not affected by heat, stomach acid, or time. Nor does the fermentation process differ depending on the individual.
Scientific literature indicates that increasing prebiotic fibre
intake supports immunity, digestive health, bone density, regularity, weight
management, and brain health.
Your Health Dietitian can advise on ways to improve your gut biome helping improve your overall health!