What a Healthy Gut Microbiome Can Do For YOU:
Here is a short list, illustrating just how integral our gut microbiome is to being a healthy, functioning human. And this list is just the the very surface layer of all there is to know. The more I read, the more I understand that the state of our general health is inextricably linked to the state of our gut microbiome. Not surprising really, given our microbes are part of who we are.
Our gut microbes:
- Help efficient digestion and absorption of vital nutrients;
- Help maintain the health of our gut wall and the mucus lining that protects it;
- Defend our gut wall against harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins – they help to prevent them passing through our gut wall into our blood stream;
- Act as a second liver by neutralising toxins found in our food;
- Play a vital role programming and modulating our immune system (the majority of our immune system is in our gut);
- Manufacture or assist in the manufacture of enzymes, hormones, vitamins and neurotransmitters;
- Influence our stress levels via our endocrine (hormonal) system and our limbic system;
- Play a crucial role in managing inflammation in the gut, which has been identified a major factor in many chronic diseases;
- Talk to our brain by a number of means including via the vagus nerve and thereby influence brain activity and behaviour.
Fascinating Microbiome-Related Facts
And here, like a Magpie, I am collecting microbiome-related facts that I find interesting. Not always solely relating to the gut….
- Approximately half the weight of your poo is discarded bacteria.
- There are more microbes in your body than there are human cells. Truly, you are possessed!
- The composition of our gut microbiota is unique to each one of us – just as our fingerprints and our irises are.
- We contain approximately 100 - 150 times more microbial DNA than we do human DNA. We are more microbe genetic material than we are human!
- Our mitochondria, the generator of energy for our human cells, were once bacteria. We have, during evolution, absorbed them into our cellular structure.
- There are over 1000 different known bacterial species (ignoring viruses, yeasts and eukaryotes) but there are only 150-170 species predominating in us at any given time.
- Our gut microbiome is so crucial to our normal functioning that it is now being recognised as an organ in its own right. It differs from our other organs because, as we currently understand it, we acquire it during birth and as we mature.
- Fifteen thousand years ago, our ancestors apparently regulary ate around 150 DIFFERENT foodstuffs a week. Now, most of us consume less than 20 a week and many of those are highly processed foods. Consumption of a diverse range of whole foods results in a diverse microbiome, which is linked with improved health.