Microflora, bowel flora, gut bacteria, microbiota all terms used to describe the living ecosystem in your gut. We all have a microbiome and it is unique to each of us.
The research and findings into this area of health has expanded within the last ten years. Modern lifestyle and diet combined with widespread use of antibiotics has changed our gut bacteria. An imbalance of your gut bacteria has now been linked to numerous conditions and diseases - obesity, autism, cancer, autoimmune and allergic conditions, heart disease and diabetes.
Your microbiome can affect your digestive health, your mental health, immune status, even your weight.
What is a microbiome?
It is the collection of all microorganisms within the human body, this includes the microorganisms themselves, their genomes and the habitat. The human microbiome lies on the surface of your digestive tract. The microbiota are the organisms themselves and there are 10x more bacterial cells than our human cells and an astounding one million plus micro biome genes, our human genome is at 23000 genes.
We inherit our microbiome from our mothers during birth and the microbiota is influenced by an individuals lifestyle, diet, genotype, physiology, pathobiology, immune system, environment and transient community members. Changes in the composition of the microbiome correlate to disease states and the composition may be manipulated with the use of probiotics and dietary and lifestyle changes.
The microbiome plays a beneficial role to our health and a symbiotic relationship exists. Some of the known functions include:
the metabolism of vitamins
the breakdown of foods
the production of anti-inflammatory compounds as part of our immune system
maintenance of the health of the intestinal epithelium
Poor dietary habits, lifestyle choices, and emotional stress have been shown to disrupt intestinal microflora resulting in pathogenic microbes dominating and persisting in the gut. This imbalance is known as dysbiosis, and has far reaching effects for our health as the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised. The lining of your digestive system provides the first line of defence as part of our immune response and if compromised may cause disregulation of the immune system with autoimmune disease and allergies a possibility. Gut dysbiosis has also been associated with disturbances of the GUT-Brain axis, indicating that the health of your gut has a role to play in mental health.
Discussing the bacteria of your gut may seem like it is out of a science fiction film but thanks to the explosion of research and our expanding knowledge and understanding, the microbiome is now mainstream. I can now confidently say that if your GP does not understand or know about the effects of the microbiome on your health then they should. I believe that one day, not so far in the distant future, probiotics will be prescribed for certain conditions to support your digestive flora, as opposed to antibiotics which decimate your microflora.
What you can do for a Healthy Microbiome
Support the health and balance of your own micro biome - eat clean and green.
Eat plenty of fibre rich foods which known as prebiotics that feed your beneficial microbiota.
Eliminate nutrient deficient refined foods which non-beneficial microbiota such as yeasts thrive on.
Once you have an established healthy microbiota include plenty of fermented foods.
Choose the use of antibiotic wisely and avoid where possible, and use a probiotic with antibiotics to support healthy digestive function.
A short video demonstrating the human microbiome: