Although we generally associate bacteria with diseases, our bodies also comprise millions of ‘good bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that are essential for our health and wellbeing. Collectively, these are known as the gut microbiome, and this article will discuss how it plays a crucial role in various aspects of your health.
What Is The Gut Microbiome?
Microscopic living beings such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria, are known as microbes – short for microorganisms.
Our skin and intestines are home to trillions of such microbes, out of which bacteria are the most vastly studied.
The number of bacteria in our body even exceeds the number of human cells. We have approximately 40 trillion bacterial cells, compared to 30 trillion human cells. In other words, humans are fewer humans and more bacteria.
Furthermore, the human gut microbiome contains over 1,000 distinct species of bacteria, and every single one plays a unique role. While most are vital to our health and functioning, some of them contribute to illness and disease.
Combined, these microbes weigh around 1-2 kg (4-5 pounds) – roughly equivalent to the weight of the human brain. Collectively, they operate as distinct bodily organs and have a crucial role in our health, as we have already repeatedly mentioned.
What Impact Does It Have on Our Bodies?
Over a million years, our bodies have evolved to survive with microbes.
During this period, microbes have also evolved to play significant roles in our bodies – so much so that, in the absence of the gut microbiome, it might be impossible for a human being to survive.
Our first exposure to microbes happens when we are passing through our mothers’ birth canals. However, newer studies have shown that a baby might interact with microbes while still in its mother’s womb.
As we grow, our gut microbiome’s diversity grows as well, with numerous different kinds of microbial species accumulating. The higher the microbial diversity, the better your health will be.
The more the microbiome continues to grow, the more impact it has on our body. Some of those ways include:
1) Digestion Of Breast Milk
Some bacteria that are the first to grow inside a baby’s intestines are known as Bifidobacteria. These bacteria help with the digestion of healthy sugars found in breast milk, which is important for a baby’s growth.
2) Digestion Of Fiber
Certain bacteria contribute to the digestion of fiber by producing short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for gut health. Fiber, too, plays an important role in keeping us healthy by reducing the possibility of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancers.
3) Regulation Of Our Immune System
The microbiome in our gut also controls our immune system. It communicates with our immune cells and makes sure that our bodies respond correctly when attacked by infections or viruses.
4) Regulation Of Brain Health
Recent research has shown evidence that the gut microbiome also impacts our central nervous system and, by extension, our brain functioning.
How Can We Boost Our Gut Microbiome?
Since we have now established the tremendous importance of the gut microbiome in keeping us healthy, let us now discuss some of the ways that we can improve the health of the gut microbiome itself:
1) Eat Many Different Types Of Foods
Consuming a wide range of foods improves the gut microbiome’s diversity, and, as we mentioned, a diverse microbiome points to a healthy gut. To promote Bifidobacteria growth, eat high fiber foods, such as fruits, beans, and legumes.
2) Consume Fermented Foods
Fermented foods include kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt and are rich in healthy bacteria, particularly Lactobacilli. The consumption of fermented foods can attack and kill the gut species that are responsible for causing diseases.
3) Restrict The Use Of Artificial Sweeteners
Evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners like aspartame trigger the production of unhealthy gut bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae and lead to high blood sugar levels.
4) Consume Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotic is a kind of fiber that causes healthy bacteria to grow in the gut. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include bananas, apples, oats, asparagus, and artichokes.
5) Breastfeed Your Baby For A Minimum Of Six Months
Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in the development of gut health. Research suggests that breastfed babies for at least six months had considerably more Bifidobacteriain in their gut compared to babies fed using bottles.
6) Consume Whole Grains
Whole grains are rich in fibers and other healthy carbs, including beta-glucan. When digested by your gut, these carbs help to regulate weight and lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and several other disorders.
7) Use Probiotic Supplements
As live bacteria, probiotics help in gut health restoration after dysbiosis. Probiotics achieve this by ‘reseeding’ the gut with healthy microbes.
8) Limit The Use Of Antibiotics
In the process of killing bad bacteria, antibiotics end up killing many good bacteria as well. Also, excessive use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Hence, make sure to take antibiotics only when rendered necessary by your doctor.
To summarize, our gut biomes are responsible for numerous important bodily functions, ranging from digestion to our immune systems’ effective functioning. A lack of healthy gut microbes can lead to high blood sugar, excessive weight, cholesterol, and other health problems.
By eating fermented foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and limiting our use of antibiotics and artificial sweeteners, we can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut.