Digestion, Weight loss | July 24, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
We all know good bacteria in the gut is beneficial for a healthy digestive system and can help with constipation, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and in reducing gut bugs. But did you know that there is accumulating evidence that suggests a link between disturbed microbiome and a whole host of other problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Do these colonies of good bugs really impact our health in such a profound way? With all the recent research on this hot topic, the answer seems to be YES it does! Let’s explain why.
The microbiome refers to an internal ecosystem of different microbes or microorganisms that inhabit our body.
These microbes can be commensal (along for the ride), symbiotic (offer a mutually beneficial relationship) or pathogenic (disease causing opportunistic microbes which in some cases are beneficial). These communities are unique to each individual and can inhabit everything from our skin, mouth and gut. These specific colonies are then referred to as our skin microbiota, mouth microbiota and our gut microbiota or flora.
According to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, “the human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harboured by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut. The human ‘microbiome’ consists of the genes these cells harbour.” This statement suggests that these microbiomes are our “genetic footprints”—determining our unique DNA, predisposition to diseases, body type and weight and hereditary factors.
This mini-ecosystem of microbes carry out a variety of functions which affect every aspect of our health –vital for our wellbeing and survival. They play an important role in our immune system, determining whether other things are friend or foe. This helps create harmony and balance, within its own community, suppressing the overgrowth of pathogens, while also preventing the host system from attacking itself. They are an important line of defence which literally create a protective barrier on our skin and in our gut, transforming to suit an array of environments and an individual’s needs.
The microbes in our gut are essential for the healthy digestion of our foods and absorption of nutrients. They are also important for the synthesis of some nutrients themselves.
Our microbiome changes and adapts throughout our lives.
As an infant, our first exposure to microscopic organisms can occur through the birth canal, followed by a dose of colostrum (mother’s first milk). This is meant to be nature’s way of establishing the foundation for a healthy microbiome—preventing disease and other illnesses in a child.
What we eat, how much we sleep, how much stress we have and many other factors all contribute to the health of our microbiome. In fact, every time you eat a meal, wash your hands or pat a dog you are affecting the composition of your microbiome.
Improving the makeup of our gut microbes, with the information suggested in recent research, is an effective way to address weight-related problems. It has been found that adverse changes in a person’s microbiome influences the likelihood for developing obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood sugars, high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure and excess body fat. In short, an altered microbiome stimulates low-grade inflammation, influences host energy availability, increases fat deposition, decreases glucose uptake and insulin secretion leading to high blood sugars. Meanwhile they up-regulate lipogenesis (the metabolic formation of fat) and cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis. All of which is bad news for our health!
Our microbiome differs dramatically according to our diet. This suggests that our diet plays a huge role in the levels of healthy bacteria we have in our microbiome.
Supplementing with probiotics are a sure-fire way to establish a healthy microbiome throughout your whole body. Finding what strain is right for you might depend on what concerns you had. However, a specific strain of probiotic called Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG has been found to replenish the gut microbiome, supresses pathogenic organisms and improve our gut lining.
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Antibiotics and other medications can alter our microbiome—affecting our immune and digestive system. While sometimes these medications are necessary, infections or other health concerns may respond well to natural alternatives. It’s also important to exercise, get enough sleep and manage your stress levels as much as possible.
Ursell LK, et al. Defining the human microbiome. Nutr Rev. 2012 Aug;70(Suppl 1):S38-S44
Boulangé CL, et al. Impact of the gut microbiota on inflammation, obesity, and metabolic disease. Genome Med. Apr 2016;8:42
Oriach CS, et. Food for thought: the role of nutrition in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Clin Nutr Exp.
Korpela K, et al. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG intake modifies preschool children’s intestinal microbiota, alleviates penicillin-associated changes, and reduces antibiotic use. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0154012