“So a little bacteria and a sprinkle of dirt, really doesn’t hurt” who knew that playing in the dirt and high-fiving a friend that just sneezed in his hand was a good thing! Well, I guess you could do without the high five and the microbiome is little more complex than that, but taking a little dirt once and a while is surely not a bad thing for your microbiome, “Dirt is Good”
If you’re interested in Health & Wellness you may have heard the term microbiome before. Well, the microbiome is basically the nucleus of our well-being.
As humans, we are mostly made up of microbes, over 100 trillion of them. Microbes outnumber our human cells 10-1. The majority live in our gut, particularly in the large intestine, microorganisms living inside of us.
“Who knew we had a small population living within us? Kind of interesting and comforting on one hand and kind of creepy on the other”
What’s a microbe?
A microbe, or “microscopic organism,” is a living thing that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. We need to use a microscope to see them.
The term is very general. It is used to describe many different types of life forms, with dramatically different sizes and characteristics:
Every time we eat or drink, we are feeding our bacteria in both good and bad ways. Basically when we feed, we are feeding ourselves, we’re also feeding the little army of microbes as well?
Dr Paul Ng, a Hong Kong based specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology, says the microbiome, or microbiota, refers to the myriad microorganisms living inside the human gut, mainly in the colon.
“It’s not a new discovery. For decades, doctors had thought that there are strains of bacteria living parasitically in the colon. But we actually need these bacteria to function properly,” Ng says.
The number of genes in all the microbes in one person’s microbiome is 200 times the number of genes in the human genome. The microbiome may weigh as much as five pounds.
The bacteria in the microbiome helps digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease and produce vitamins including B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation.
related article: Would The Real B12 Deficient Please Stand up?
Managing our gut environment to support friendly microbiota is, increasingly, recognized as key to good health. A study by the University of Alabama suggests that a high-calorie, high-saturated fat diet combined with age could upset the microbiome balance and lead to inflammation and heart failure. Antibiotic overuse is a known cause of microbiome upset too, killing off good bacteria and upsetting that crucial balance.
When do you receive your microbiome?
The gut microbiome begins to affect your body the moment you are born.
You are first exposed to microbes when you pass through your mother’s birth canal. However, new evidence suggests that babies may come in contact with some microbes while inside the womb.
As you grow, your gut microbiome begins to diversify, meaning it starts to contain many different types of microbial species. Higher microbiome diversity is considered good for your health.
Each person has an entirely unique network of microbiota that is originally determined by one’s DNA. A person is first exposed to microorganisms as an infant, during delivery in the birth canal and through the mother’s breast milk. Exactly which microorganisms the infant is exposed to depends solely on the species found in the mother. Later on, environmental exposures and diet can change one’s microbiome to be either beneficial to health or place one at greater risk for disease.
The microbiome consists of microbes that are both helpful and potentially harmful, like the old cliche’ “you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them” Most are symbiotic (where both the human body and microbiota benefit) and some, in smaller numbers, are pathogenic (promoting disease). In a healthy body, pathogenic and symbiotic microbiota coexist without problems. But if there is a disturbance in that balance—brought on by infectious illnesses, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics or other bacteria-destroying medications—dysbiosis occurs, stopping these normal interactions. As a result, the body may become more susceptible to disease.
Microbiome in direct connection to brain health
Bacteroides, Bifidobacteirum, Faecalibacterium, Ruminococcus– these are the names of some of the 100 trillion bacteria who are living and working in your gut. These microscopic critters, collectively known as the microbiome, help our body to digest food, process nutrients, make vitamins B and K, and produce immune molecules that fight inflammation and heal wounds. The most impressive role of this busy workforce may be, surprisingly, in the brain.
Your brain and your gut are connected at every moment, what you eat is directly effecting your brain activity, positively or negatively. It’s what some call the “gut-brain axis.” Down in the gut, bacteria make neuroactive compounds, including 90% of our neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulate our emotions. In turn, the brain can send signals to the gastrointestinal system, for example, to stimulate or suppress digestion.
Microbial metabolites, e.g. short-chain fatty acids affect gut–brain signaling and the immune response. The gut microbiota has a regulatory role on anxiety, mood, cognition and pain which is exerted via the gut–brain axis. Ingestion of prebiotics or probiotics has been used to treat a range of conditions including constipation, allergic reactions and infections in infancy, and IBS. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) highly effective for treating recurrent Clostridium difficile infections.
The gut microbiome affects virtually all aspects of human health, but the degree of scientific evidence, the models and technologies and the understanding of mechanisms of action vary considerably from one benefit area to the other. For a clinical practice to be broadly accepted, the mode of action, the therapeutic window, and potential side effects need to thoroughly be investigated. This calls for further coordinated state-of-the art research to better understand and document the human gut microbiome’s effects on human health.
Dust from homes with dogs may reduce the immune response to allergens and other asthma triggers by changing the composition of the gut microbiome. Infants who live in homes with dogs have been found to be less likely to develop childhood allergies. Who knew letting your dog sleep in your bed was great for your health!
Researchers have already found clear evidence that childhood exposure to outdoor microbes is linked to a robust immune system.
Some of the best ways to improve your microbiome
Take probiotics and eat fermented foods
- fermented vegetables
Eat prebiotic fiber
- whole grain
Eat less sugar and sweeteners
Eating a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes.
Some stress management techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Don’t take antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary
Although it is often necessary to take antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, overuse is a significant public health concern that can lead to antibiotic resistance.
As a result, the CDC recommend that people discuss antibiotics and alternative options with their doctor before use.
Regularly exercising contributes to good heart health and weight loss or weight maintenance.
Just moderate intensity exercise each week will work, along with muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week.
Incorporate a plantbase diet
High-fiber plantbase diet promotes healthful and stable gut bacteria, according to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Increased intake of fiber and other plant components associated with plant-based diets increase the growth of beneficial bacteria that reduce inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk. Fiber also increases short-chain fatty acids linked to improved immunity and improved intestinal function. These conclusions indicate that diet contributes to healthful microbiome diversity more than any other factor, and a plant-based diet is the most effective means to ensure optimal gut health.
It’s so important to understand what we put in our bodies everyday will directly effect our well being. Paying close attention to the nutritional facts about your particular diet should be a high priority. Probably, the most important decision of the day will be what you decide to put in your mouth.