Most people consider microbes as germs, but truth is trillions of microbes that live in our gut execute many functional roles – aid in digestion, keep a check on infectious agents, boost immunity, synthesize many vitamins, play a key role in maintaining Hormone balance and Brain function.
So they are for sure our ‘Friends’
“Taking into account the major role gut microbiota plays in the normal functioning of the body and the different functions it accomplishes, experts nowadays consider it as an “organ”
Quick facts about our ‘Friends’ Microbiota
- Healthy adult humans each typically harbor more than 1000 species of bacteria
- Microbiota can, in total, weigh up to 2 kg
- ‘Gut feelings’ indeed seems to be a true phrase as researchers have found connection between gut microbiome and human behavior and emotion
- Two thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors.
- The initial composition of the gut microbiota depends on the mode of delivery: babies delivered vaginally harbour gut microbiota resembling microbial communities found in their mothers’ vaginas, whereas those born via Cesarean section apparently acquire microbes from the skin, dominated by taxa such as Propionibacterium and Staphylococcus
- Formula fed babies have less of good microbes compared to breast fed babies, giving them a healthier edge over the other. Gut of breastfed babies primarily consists of Bifidobacteria – considered a “friendly” bacteria that benefits the gut
- Infants with less diverse gut bacteria at the age of 3 months were more likely to be prone to food allergies
- By the age of 3, microbiota becomes stable and similar to that of adults, continuing its evolution at a steadier rate throughout life
- Researchers have found a certain strain of bacteria – Christensenellaceae minuta – that cause the animals to gain less weight, indicating the bacteria could be used to reduce or prevent obesity
- The predominant bacterial groups in the microbiome are gram positive Firmicutes and gram negative Bacteroidetes
- People treated with prolonged courses of antibiotics that kill a wide spectrum of bacteria can develop life-threatening diarrhoea due to an overgrowth of Clostridium difficile
Microbiome and Disease state
Each of us have a complex ecosystem of bacteria located within our gut and we call them microbiome or gut microbiota. The vast majority of the bacterial species that make up our microbiome live in our digestive systems. Some researchers believe that up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome. Poor gut health can contribute to leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases and disorders like arthritis, dementia, heart disease, and cancer.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), gut bacteria produce an array of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. So it is no surprise that gut bacteria is considered to be associated with a number of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders and depression.
- Research has found that gut bacteria may be important for improving the effectiveness of cancer treatment
- Gut bacteria has a big role to play in mental disability Autism. Children with autism possessed lower levels of three types of gut bacteria – Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae – compared with children free of the condition.
- Researchers have found specific changes in the microbiome of people with Multiple Sclerosis that appear to be linked to changes in their immune function.
- IBD patients tend to have less bacterial diversity as well as lower numbers of Bacteroides and Firmicutes—which together may contribute to reduced concentrations of microbial-derived butyrate. Butyrate have a direct anti-inflammatory effect in the gut.
- Gut bacteria can produce significant amounts of amyloid and lipopolysaccharides, which are key players in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease
- Link exist between gut microbiome and obesity. In particular, obese individuals have a high baseline Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio.
Microbiome and Diet
Understanding the complex relationship among what we choose to eat, activity levels and gut microbiota richness is essential. Developing new ways to manipulate the beneficial properties of our microbiota by finding ways to integrate health-promoting properties into modern living should be the goal.” Dr. Georgina Hold, of the Institute of Medical Sciences at Aberdeen University in Scotland
It is now understood that diet plays a significant role in shaping the microbiome, with experiments showing that dietary alterations can induce large, temporary microbial shifts within 24 hours.
Prebiotcs: Foods that nourish the microbiome are called prebiotics
Probiotics: foods that contain the actual microbes, such as yoghurt and fermented milk called kefir, are called probiotics.
Synbiotics: Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and miso, are combinations of probiotics and prebiotics, known as synbiotics
Ways to have a Healthier Microbiome
- An inconsistent, disordered diet can wreak havoc on the gut microbiota
- Limit the consumption of highly processed foods and foods that have a very high concentration of fat
- Eat more fiber-rich plants such as leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas and onions
- Eat breakfast at 7am and dinner no later than 7pm
- Stay away from drugs, dietary supplements, body-care products
- Excessive use of liquid soaps, body washes, and other similar products may disturb the skin microbiota and/or decrease your exposure to beneficial microorganisms
- Stay close to nature – jog in the park, do some gardening, go for trekking
Microbiome and Therapeutic possibilities
The observation that diet can modulate host-microbe interactions heralds a promising future therapeutic approach. Advances in microbiome research have suggested novel therapeutic possibilities for diseases that have traditionally been difficult to treat. For example, the fecal microbiota transplant has been used successfully to manage several different conditions, including ulcerative colitis, Clostridium difficile-associated colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even obesity. It is possible that dermatologic conditions, including psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, may also be observed to benefit from re-engineering the gut microbiota.