Human beings are colonized by many different kinds of microorganisms. It is estimated that an average human body inhabited around 10 times more non-human cells than human cells. Our gut alone contains around 100 trillion bacteria at any given time.
We have a huge population of microorganisms that live both inside and outside our body. These include bacteria, who are the biggest players when it comes to interacting with our body. We host other single-celled organisms as well known as archaea, viruses and fungi, and other microbes. All of these together are known as the human microbiome.
Your microbiome is also all the genes that your microbiota contains. The term microbiome and microbiota are used interchangeably.
While most of the microorganisms that humans host are not harmful, but there can be some non-pathogenic microorganisms that can harm human hosts via the metabolites they produce, these can be trimethylamine which our bodies convert to trimethylamine N-oxide.
Most of the microorganisms can be useful for us, While we still don’t understand the role of some other microbes.
All those that are expected to be present under normal circumstances, which do not cause diseases are deemed as normal flora or normal microbiota.
Where is our Microbiome?
Our microbiome resides on or in a number of human tissues and biofluids, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lungs, saliva, oral mucosa, mammary glands, placenta, conjunctiva, skin, biliary and gastrointestinal tract.
Recently a majority of research has gone into looking at the interaction of bacteria with humans in the gastrointestinal tract.
Where do all the microbes come from?
From The Beginning
Though it is thought that we are sterile when we are in utero, and as we are being born and emerge through the birth canals, we get some microbes through our mums. These bacteria are really important at the beginning of creating a good microbiome balance for the newborn.
It is also to be noted that during pregnancy the mother’s microbiome changes to provide an optimum mix of bacteria for the offspring.
Research data has shown that babies who are born by cesarean section have a higher risk of conditions like asthma and type 1 diabetes. Some of it can be traced back to not getting that initial mix of important microbes from the mother.
Our microbiome starts to develop from that point on over the first year or two. Shaped by the microbes found in breast milk.
Infants who are breastfed have shown a less diverse microbiome with higher amounts of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species. This can help protect against potential pathogenic gut microbes and produce antimicrobial compounds which eliminate pathogenic strains of certain bacteria.
They also have fewer potential harmful bacteria compared to infants who are formula-fed. This just goes to show that a mother’s milk is an important component in creating a healthy microbiome from the beginning.
How Our Diet Changes Our Microbiome
From that point on our microbiome gradually changes as we age. This depends on the environment and our long term diet.
It also goes depends on the amount of stress we have and the kind of drugs we take, such as antibiotics.
Our microbiome is always changing and evolving as we go through life. A bad diet can cause dysbiosis and cause an unhealthy microbiome and a good diet can help create a good microbiome which provides many health advantages which we’ll discuss below.
Microbes not only come from the food we eat but also the air we breathe, from pet around us and various other sources.
What kind of microbes we have in our body?
We have a variety of microbes in our body, Each part of our body hosts a different kind of microbial community. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the bacteria in our gut. Which are also known as probiotics.
The composition of our gut microbiota varies across the digestive tract. We harbor relatively low amounts of bacteria in our stomach and small intestine when compared to our colon or large intestine.
The colon contains a densely populated ecosystem from 300 to 1000 different kinds of microbes. Although these microbes are present in the gut there are 30 to 40 species that makeup to 99% of the microbes.
There are four major kinds of bacterial phyla in the gut. Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria.
The majority of the bacteria belong to Bacteroides, Clostridium, Faecalibacterium,
The four dominant bacterial phyla in the human gut are Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Eubacterium, Ruminococcus, Peptococcus, Peptostreptococcus, and Bifidobacterium.
Other genera of bacteria are also present such as Escherichia and Lactobacillus but, these are present to a lesser extent. The Bacteroides alone constitutes to about 30% of all bacteria in the gut. Which makes it one of the most important species for the host.
There are also different kinds of microbes present in the gut these include fungi like, Candida albicans which are known to be harmful and causes yeast infection in the stomach. Aspergillus, Penicillium, Rhodotorula, Trametes, Pleospora, Sclerotinia, Bullera, and Galactomyces are some other kinds of fungi normally present in the gut.
We also have Archaea which are yet another big part of gut flora. These are important for the metabolism of the bacterial products of fermentation.
All these microbes interact with each other and the host. The kind of species we have varies from person to person, depends on ethnicity and also where you live in the world.
How does our microbiome affect our health?
Improved synthesis of Vitamins and Minerals
The intestinal bacteria play a key role in the synthesis of Vitamins and Minerals some of these include Vitamin B, Vitamin K, Zinc, Magnesium, Iron and calcium.
The best example of important this can be is looking at the synthesis of Vitamin B12. The enzymes required for B12 synthesis are possessed by bacteria, no animals and plants can synthesize B12 without the help of our friendly bacteria.
The same goes for Vitamin K, our gut bacteria produce Vitamin K known as menaquinones. In the general population, we see a huge variation in Vitamin K levels, which are suspected to be dictated by a variety of gut microbes.
We can also boost Vitamin K levels with the help of alfalfa, which also acts as a wonderful prebiotic that helps boost the microbiome.
Lowered Risk of Colon Cancer
The gut microbes metabolize soluble fibers and in return produce Acetic acid and Butyric acid. While also metabolizing bile acids, sterols, and xenobiotics.All of these processes help create a better environment for the cells in our gut, thus making it very hard for any kind of mutation to start inside the colon.
Healthy Gut Lining
A poor diet can essentially starve our microbiome. In doing so the starving gut bacteria turn towards consuming our gut lining, which protects us from pathogens, viruses and other harmful objects, even food particles.
The gut lining also produces a mucus layer which harbors a large number of bacterial community. With a damaged gut lining the mucus layer can’t do its job properly leading to other problems in our gut. An unhealthy gut lining can also lead to leaky gut, in which the contents of the gut pass through the gut lining and end up in the blood.
Reduced Inflammatory Markers
Inflammation is the root cause of most diseases. Studies have shown that an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is protective for our brain neurons and other organs. A healthy microbiome can help achieve this by reducing the possibilities of inflammation causing agents, These can be anything from sugars to other harmful enzymes or chemicals.
Research has shown that patients who first develop rheumatoid arthritis have a substantially lower number of helpful bacteria in their gut gastrointestinal systems.
People with rheumatoid arthritis have significantly less bifidobacteria, Bacteroides-porphyromonas-prevotella species, Bacteroides fragilis species, and the eubacterium rectangle-clostridium coccoides species.
By focusing on creating a good microbiome environment we can possibly avoid rheumatoid arthritis.
Hormonal imbalance is common in both men and women after due to age, diet, and other issues.
For this blog we’ll focus on women, It was found that when a certain harmful intestinal bacteria are present they make an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase which re-activates estrogen in the gut. This estrogen then re-enters the body and causes excess estrogen.
Having excess estrogen in the system can make periods heavier. It can also contribute to the long-term risk of conditions such as uterine and breast cancer.
Gut microbe-derived metabolites that are biologically active such as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) are recognized as contributors to atherogenesis (The process of forming atheromas plaques in the inner lining of arteries).
TMAO is being identified as a strong predictor of coronary heart disease risk. The risk of cardiovascular diseases can be greatly reduced by having a good efficient microbiome that can give out the right signals at the right time helping us detect problems before they can happen.
The gut-brain axis is bidirectional communication between the central and enteric nervous system. Which links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. This is achieved by neural, endocrine, immune and hormonal links.
In clinical practice, evidence of Microbiota-Gut Brain Axis interactions comes from the association of dysbiosis with the central nervous system and functional gastrointestinal disorders.
Research has shown that our microbiome can affect the way we feel to a certain extent. A microbiome dysbiosis can also cause a person to crave certain things like sugars. There still needs a lot of research on the Gut-Brain Axis to find out more about how our microbiome interacts with our brain and central nervous system.
In the end, we still need to know a lot more about our friendly bacteria communities. Though it is certain that we need a healthy microbiome for a healthy life. We can easily take the steps to do so by eating the right foods, you can check out our article here on what might be the best sources of energy for our microbiome.
You can also check out chlorofiber which provides the best combination of chlorophyll and prebiotic to help boost the population of good bacteria in your gut.
1. Weber, P., Steinert, R. E., La Fata, G., & Mohajeri, M. (2018, April 26). Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/76/7/481/4985887. Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function
2. Kwa, M., Plottel, C. S., Blaser, M. J., & Adams, S. (2016, August 1). Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor–Positive Female Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/108/8/djw029/2457487.
3. Mai, V., & Morris, Jr, J. (2013, December 18). Need for Prospective Cohort Studies to Establish Human Gut Microbiome Contributions to Disease Risk. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/105/24/1850/2517771.
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