Your gut, your bugs, and your health.
Bacteria are … everywhere, literally: in the air, soil, food, water, and your body – on your skin, in your mouth, in your intestines and your poop, even in your tears. Most is good and healthy for us.
“It’s really easy to forget that we live in a microbial world, They’re emperors of our planet.” – Carolyn Hovde Bohach, microbiologist [article link]
And it is only in the past few decades that we have come to realize how ubiquitous microbes are, flourishing from the tops of clouds [22 miles above the Earth’s surface] to miles below the Earth’s surface. We’ve just begun to understand how vital they are to our health and to the health of the Earth. [source]
The Take Away
Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is very important for health. Very.
Your diet and your lifestyle – stress, exercise, what you eat – play either a positive or negative role in the type and quantity of your microbiome (the bugs in your gut).
Antibiotic use diminishes both the quality and quantity of your microbiome.
Probiotic supplements can play an important supportive role in being healthy.
An Essential Organ
Hopefully you’ve heard the term ‘microbiome’ – this refers to the bacteria that live symbiotically within your body in general and your intestinal tract or gut in particular. Taken as a whole and its role or function, the human microbiome can be described or thought of as an ‘organ’; not only that, but because the body wouldn’t function properly without it, it’s accurate to call the microbiome an ‘essential organ’.
The evidence is clear: ‘Recent studies have suggested that the intestinal microbiome plays an important role in modulating risk of several chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.’ [article link]
First, let’s get an idea of the scale of what we’re talking about: the microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms – mainly bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa – that form a complex ‘community’ within the body that has critical interconnected and interdependent functions.
Second, it’s been known for a long time that healthy gut ‘flora’ – the microbes living in our intestinal tract – play a critical role in health: digestion, vitamin production, fatty acid production, and of course as part of our immune defense system to fight off invading germs (even the development of immunity in infants). [for a good overview of the microbiome: What is the microbiome?]
How to Enhance (or Diminish) Your Microbiome and Your Health
- Natural birth is … natural, therefore helps growth and development of a healthy gut microbiome and its attendant affect for healthier neurological and immunological development (contrary to a diminished gut colonization and subsequent development for babies born via Cesarean section)
- Breast feeding, again is … natural and again therefore facilitates immune system development which helps for long-term health outcomes.
- Smoking, stress and a lack of exercise all contribute to negative changes to the composition of our microbiome.
- Sedentary lifestyles leading to obesity are also associated with negative microbiota profiles.
- There exists a direct relationship between what we eat and our microbiome; therefore we can be healthier by taking care of what we eat – our diet style. A plant-driven diet style with dietary fiber (DF) and sources of plant protein from low glycemic carbohydrates – in the form of vegetables – provide fertile environment within the gut for good bacteria to grow
- High glycemic refined carbohydrates – such as bread, sugar, cereals – feed and promote the development of bad bacteria within the gut
- Probiotics – taking a probiotic supplement is a hedge against modern life’s tendency to disrupt a healthy microbiome SHOP HERE
Now it seems that each month new research comes out continuing to build an even stronger case for how important the normal ‘flora’ within our bodies are for health and well being. These are as diverse as the microbes themselves.
‘… studies of the profound differences in microbes at different body sites, and between health and disease, are as old as microbiology itself. What is new today is not the ability to observe these obvious differences, but rather the ability to use powerful molecular techniques to gain insight into why these differences exist, and to understand how we can affect transformations from one state to another.’ [article link]
Our microbiome ‘… has a profound impact on our health. In the past decade, gut microorganisms have been shown to play a role in a wide range of human diseases, including obesity, psoriasis, autism, and mood disorders.’ [article link]
A recent study demonstrated that our intestinal microbiome communicates with the brain, affecting brain function and ‘… thereby having an impact on stress, anxiety, depression, and cognition.’
‘Our results provide population-scale evidence for microbiome links to mental health …’ [article link]
Bacteria on tumors
It turns out that tumors have their own bacteria that can suppress or stimulate the body’s immune response.
Survival of pancreatic cancer patients: ‘These data have implications for understanding immune suppression in pancreatic cancer and its reversal in the clinic.’ [article link / also: 1) here; and 2) here]
Gut microbiota composition (GMC) possibly affecting personality traits in infants ‘Sub-optimal gut microbial colonization during the early developmental windows may be detrimental for some neurodevelopmental outcomes’ [article link]
Unhealthy gut microbiome and the spread of breast cancer ‘Here we have identified commensal dysbiosis as a host-intrinsic factor associated with metastatic dissemination. [in mice]’ [article link]
Gut microbiome and colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease ‘This powerful approach to gene-level metagenomics provides a powerful path forward for identifying the biological links between the microbiome and human health.’ [article link]
Gut microbiota and cancer management: ‘… help to better understand this new therapeutic approach for cancer patients by targeting gut microbiota.’ [article link]
Autism and gut microbiome ‘This disturbed situation hypothesized to be initiated by dysbiosis or microbial imbalance could in turn perturb the coordination of microbiota-gut-brain axis which is important in human mental health as goes the popular dictum: “fix your gut, fix your brain”.’ [article link]