The “gut microbiome” or “gut flora” is a current nutrition-science hot topic. It’s a system of 10 trillion live intestinal bugs (microorganisms) that impact your weight, health and well-being, and risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.
Each of us has our own unique flora-fingerprint of 500 to 1000 different kinds of microorganisms in our digestive system. These bacteria, fungi (yeast), virus, protozoa, and helminths (parasites) interact with our human cells, operating like a complex ecosystem. “Good” microorganisms (mostly of the bacterial origin) are influenced by the composition of your diet, the plants in your diet, medications, and other factors. The good guys are nutrition powerhouses that promote health, a lean body weight, good mood, energy, and good digestion. Pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms), low diversity, or a lack of good flora can lead to digestion woes and digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The gut flora influences our health in remarkable ways, for example: beneficial bacteria produce vitamins and digestive enzymes; helps absorb minerals like bone-building calcium; and directs the immune system to fight against disease-causing bacteria and virus.
Certain types of bacteria common among most of us (such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobaccilli) are essential to good health. The good bacteria and their genes are involved in a wide range of health benefits such as:
- the production of digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fiber, fat, protein, and other chemicals in our diets
- interactions with the complex immune system lying just beneath the mucous membrane barrier of the intestinal tract
- breaking down and eliminating toxins
- formation of the intestinal wall
- direct interaction with the brain and the balance of neurotransmitters that control mood and brain health
In fact, considering the predominance of our gut bacteria and their involvement in physiological function, the gut microbiome can be thought of as an organ, as important as the liver or heart. Imbalances in the microbiome have been associated with chronic disease and many conditions including: cancer, heart disease, autism, mood disorders, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune disease, obesity, and skin conditions like Eczema, to name a few.
There are many things that can contribute to imbalances in the gut microbiome such as: antibiotics and other medications, alcohol, stress, smoking, lack of sleep, exposure to toxins or inability to eliminate toxins, and most importantly diet! Diet can improve an unbalanced microbiome and chronic conditions that result from an unhealthy gut. If you need help mending your gut please book a consult today!