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How does your gut microbiome impact your overall health?

Would you be surprised if we told you that we’re an ecosystem that houses a gazillion microorganisms inside? Yes, we’re more than just skin and bones. The microorganisms that we give shelter to in our bodies include bacteria, fungi and viruses, collectively called microbiomes.

Most of these microbiomes are found inside our intestines. That’s why we call them gut bacteria. Gut bacteria are essential for good gut health. But a healthy gut doesn’t only mean a healthy digestive system.  Your heart, brain and immune system benefits too. 

Up until now, many of us may have thought that bacteria and fungi are bad, as they are associated with diseases and illnesses. But just so you know, not all of them are bad. In fact, some are beneficial for your overall health, including the immune system, heart and brain, as we previously mentioned. 

So, how does the gut microbiome improve our overall health? Let’s find out. 

Starting off with something interesting

You’d be surprised to know that your body has more bacterial cells than it has human cells. While there may be 30 trillion human cells, there are over 40 trillion bacteria in your body. These 40 million bacteria include over 1000 species, all having different functions in the body. While some of them are disease-causing, others are not and essential for your overall health. 

How do these microbes benefit the human health? 

As your microbiome grows, it affects your body in a number of ways, including:

Digesting breast milk:

When infants are born, their digestive systems are not fully developed. Breast milk, nature’s perfect food for babies, provides them with all the necessary nutrients for growth and development. However, the process of digesting breast milk isn’t solely the baby’s responsibility. Bifidobacteria, a type of beneficial bacteria, begin to populate the infant’s intestines shortly after birth. These bacteria play a crucial role in breaking down and fermenting the healthy sugars present in breast milk. Through this fermentation process, they produce essential byproducts like short-chain fatty acids, which are easily digestible and provide a source of energy for the baby. This symbiotic relationship between bifidobacteria and breast milk is vital for the infant’s growth, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrition to thrive during the early stages of life.

Digesting fibre:

Fibre is an essential component of a healthy diet, but humans lack the enzymes necessary to break down fibre on their own. Fortunately, certain types of bacteria residing in the gut specialise in fermenting fibre. These bacteria, including species like Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, utilise fibre as a substrate to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) through fermentation. SCFAs, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are integral for gut health. They serve as a source of energy for the cells lining the colon, contribute to maintaining a healthy pH balance in the gut, and exert anti-inflammatory effects. By helping with the digestion of fibre and the production of SCFAs, gut bacteria contribute significantly to the overall well-being of the digestive system.

Helping control your immune system:

The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system, influencing its development and function. Within the gut, there exists a complex interaction between various immune cells and the trillions of bacteria residing there. Gut bacteria communicate with the immune system through various signalling pathways, influencing the production of immune cells and the secretion of cytokines, which are molecules involved in immune response regulation. This communication is essential for instructing the immune system on how to distinguish between harmful pathogens and beneficial microorganisms, thus helping to prevent inappropriate immune responses such as allergies or autoimmune diseases. Additionally, certain beneficial bacteria can directly inhibit the growth of harmful pathogens in the gut, further supporting the overall health of the immune system.

Helping control brain health:

The gut-brain axis refers to the bidirectional communication between the gut and the central nervous system, involving neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways. Emerging research has highlighted the significant impact of the gut microbiome on brain health and function. The gut microbiota produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are essential for regulating mood, cognition, and behaviour. Thus, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through dietary interventions, probiotics, and other lifestyle factors is crucial for promoting optimal brain health and preventing neurological disorders.

Gut health and weight loss 

Gut health significantly impacts weight loss by influencing digestion, metabolism, inflammation, and hormonal regulation. A diverse and beneficial gut microbiome aids in efficient nutrient absorption and metabolism, promoting satiety and reducing overeating. Gut bacteria also produce hormones that regulate appetite and influence fat storage. Moreover, certain bacteria affect thermogenesis and fat storage, while imbalances in gut flora may trigger cravings for high-calorie foods

Closing thoughts

So, by now we have established that a healthy gut = healthy you. Your gut microbiome holds the keys to your overall health and well-being. It’s not just about digestion; it’s about regulating your metabolism, bolstering your immune system, influencing your mood, and improving brain function, among others. Hence, you cannot undermine the importance of good gut health. It can pave the way for a vibrant and thriving life, where gut health is the cornerstone of your wellness journey.

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