The body is full of millions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. They are known together, as the microbiome. While bacteria are often associated with the disease, they are actually extremely important for the immune system, heart, weight and many other aspects of health. This article serves as a guide to know the intestinal microbiome and explain why it is so important for health.
What is the Intestinal Microbiome?
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other tiny living beings refer to the tiny as microorganisms, or microbes. Trillions of these microbes exist mainly within the intestines and in the skin. Most of the microbes in the intestine are found in a “pocket” of the large intestine called the blind, and are known as the intestinal microbiome. Although many types of different microbes live within the human body, bacteria are the most studied. In fact, there are more bacterial cells in the body than human cells. There are approximately 40 million bacterial cells in your body and only 30 million human cells. That means we are more bacteria than humans. Moreover, there are up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome, and each of them plays a different role in your body. Most bacteria are extremely important for your health, while others can cause the disease. Together, these microbes can weigh as much as 2-5 pounds (1-2 kg), which is more or less the weight of your brain. In addition, the instinct microbiome together, function as an extra organ in the body and play a huge role in health.
Summary: The gut microbiome refers to all the microbes in the intestines, which act as another organ that is crucial to your health.
How does Microbes Affect the Body?
Humans have evolved to live with microbes for millions of years. During this time, microbes have learned to play very important roles in the human body. In fact, without the intestinal microbiome, it would be very difficult to survive. The intestinal microbiome begins to affect your body at the time it is born. First, it is exposed to microbes when it passes through the mother’s birth canal. However, new evidence suggests that babies may come into contact with some microbes while they are inside the uterus. As the human body grows, the intestinal microbiome begins to diversify, which means that it begins to contain many different types of microbial species. A great diversity of microbiomes is considered good for your health.
“Interestingly, the food you eat affects the diversity of intestinal bacteria”.
As your microbiome grows, it affects your body in several ways, including:
- Digestion of breast milk: Some of the bacteria that first begin to grow inside the intestines of babies are called Bifidobacteria. They digest the healthy sugars in breast milk that are important for the growth of the baby.
- Fiber digestion: Certain bacteria digest fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids, which are important for intestinal health. Fiber can help prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk.
- Helping to control your immune system: The intestinal microbiome also controls the functionality of the immune system. By communicating with immune cells, the intestinal microbiota can control how your body responds to the infection.
- Helping to control brain health: New research suggests that the intestinal microbiota may also affect the central nervous system, which controls brain function.
Therefore, there are a number of different ways in which the intestinal microbiome can affect key bodily functions and influence your health.
Summary: The gut microbiome affects the body from birth and throughout life, controlling the digestion of food, the immune system, the central nervous system and other bodily processes.
The Intestinal Microbiota Can Affect Your Weight:
Why is the Intestinal Microbiome Crucial to Your Health? There are thousands of different types of bacteria in the intestines, most of which benefit your health. However, having too many unhealthy microbes can lead to illness. An imbalance of healthy and unhealthy microbes is sometimes called intestinal dysbiosis, and can cause weight gain. Several well-known studies have shown that the intestinal microbiota differs completely between identical twin people, one twin was obese and another thin was healthy. This showed that the differences in the microbiome are not genetic. Interestingly, in one study, when the microbiome of the obese twin was transferred to mice, those who had received the microbiome of the thin twin gained more weight, although both groups ate the same diet. These studies show that microbiome dysbiosis may play a role in weight gain. Fortunately, probiotics are good for a healthy microbiota and can help with weight loss. However, studies suggest that the effects of probiotics on weight loss are probably quite small, losing at least 2.2 pounds (1 kg) in people.
Summary: Intestinal dysbiosis can lead to weight gain, but probiotics can potentially restore intestinal health and help reduce weight.
The Microbiota Can Affect Intestinal Health:
The intestinal microbiota can also affect intestinal health and may play a role in intestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The swelling, cramps and abdominal pain that people with IBS experience may be due to intestinal dysbiosis. This is because the microbes produce a large amount of gas and other chemicals, which contribute to the symptoms of intestinal discomfort. However, certain healthy bacteria in the microbiota can also improve intestinal health. Certain bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, found in probiotic products and yogurt, can help seal spaces between intestinal cells and prevent bowel leakage syndrome. These species can also prevent bacteria that cause disease from adhering to the intestinal wall. In fact, taking certain probiotics that contain Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli can reduce the symptoms of IBS.
Summary: A healthy intestinal microbiome controls intestinal health by communicating with intestinal cells, digesting certain foods and preventing disease-causing bacteria from adhering to the intestinal walls.
The Intestinal Microbiome May Benefit Heart Health:
Why is the Intestinal Microbiome Crucial to Your Health? Interestingly, the intestinal microbiome can even affect the health of the heart. A recent study in 1,500 people found that the intestinal microbiome played an important role in promoting “good” HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Certain unhealthy species in the intestinal microbiome can also contribute to heart disease by producing trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is a chemical, causes arteries to block, and can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Certain bacteria within the microbiota convert choline and L-carnitine, which are nutrients found in red meat and other food sources of animal origin, to TMAO, potentially increasing the risk factors for heart disease. However, other bacteria within the gut microbiota, particularly Lactobacilli, can help reduce bad cholesterol when taken as a probiotic.
Summary: Some bacteria within the intestinal microbiome can produce chemicals that can block arteries and cause heart disease. However, probiotics can help reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
It Can Help Control Blood Sugar and Reduce the Risk of Diabetes:
The intestinal microbiota can also help control blood sugar, which could reduce the risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes. A recent study examined 33 infants who had a high genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes. It was found that the diversity of the microbiome dropped suddenly before the onset of type 1 diabetes. It was also found that the levels of a number of unhealthy bacterial species increased just before the onset of type 1 diabetes. Another study found that even when people ate exactly the same foods, their blood sugar could vary greatly. This may be due to the types of bacteria in the intestine.
Summary: The gut microbiome plays a role in blood sugar control and can also affect the onset of type 1 diabetes in children.
It Can Affect Brain Health:
Why is the Intestinal Microbiome Crucial to Your Health? The gut microbiota can even benefit brain health in several ways. First, certain species of bacteria can help produce chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin is an antidepressant neurotransmitter that is made primarily in the intestine. Second, the intestine is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves. Therefore, the gut microbiota can also affect brain health by helping to control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves. A series of studies have shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their intestines, compared to healthy people. This suggests that the intestinal microbiota may affect brain health. However, it is not clear if this is simply due to different dietary and lifestyle habits. A small number of studies have also shown that certain probiotics can improve symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders.
Summary: The intestinal microbiome can affect the health of the brain by producing brain chemicals and communicating with the nerves that connect to the brain.
How Can You Improve Your Gut Microbiome?
There are many ways to improve your gut microbiota, such as:
Eating a wide range of foods: This can lead to a diverse microbiota, which is an indicator of good intestinal health. In particular, legumes, beans and fruits contain a lot of fiber and can promote the growth of Bifidobacteria that are healthy for the body.
Eat fermented foods: Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir contain healthy bacteria, mainly Lactobacilli, and can reduce the amount of bacterial species that cause diseases in the intestine.
Limit the intake of artificial sweeteners: Some evidence has shown that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the intestinal microbiota such as Enterobacteriaceae.
Eat probiotic foods: Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. Foods rich in prebiotics include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oatmeal and apples.
Lactation for at least six months: Breastfeeding is very important for the development of the intestinal microbiota. Children who are breastfed for at least six months have more beneficial Bifidobacteria than those who are bottle fed.
Eat whole grains: Whole grains contain a lot of fiber and beneficial carbohydrates such as beta-glucan, which are digested by intestinal bacteria to decrease weight, the risk of cancer, diabetes and other disorders.
Try a plant-based diet: vegetarian diets can help reduce levels of bacteria such as E. coli that cause disease, as well as inflammation and cholesterol.
Eat foods rich in polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil and whole grains. It is digested by the microbiota to stimulate beneficial bacterial growth.
Take a probiotic supplement:Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the intestine to a healthy state after dysbiosis. They do this by “re-implementing” healthy microbes (62).
Take antibiotics only when necessary: Antibiotics kill many bad and good bacteria in the intestinal microbiota, possibly contributing to weight gain and antibiotic resistance. Therefore, only taking antibiotics when medically necessary is essential.
Summary: Eating a wide variety of foods rich in fiber and fermented is compatible with a healthy microbiome. Taking probiotics and limiting antibiotics can also be beneficial.
The intestinal microbiota is made up of billions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. The gut microbiota plays a very important role in your health by helping to control digestion and benefit the immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high “bad” cholesterol and other disorders. To help support the growth of healthy microbes in the intestine, it is necessary to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods.