Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Firstly, you may be asking what is a microbiome? Let us start by removing the jargon, in this article I will explain what exactly our gut microbiome means and what it does. Simply put, our gut microbiome refers to all the bacteria and microorganisms that exist within our small and large intestines. We have microbiomes (collections of bacteria) in other parts of our bodies but for this article we are focusing solely on our gut.
We are actually 90% bacteria
Although this may not be the most appetising fact, we have a mini ecosystem of 100 trillion active bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans in our digestive tract. These bacteria strains can be put into 3 groups:
1. Good or beneficial bacteria
2. Potentially bad bacteria – if given the opportunity
3. Pathogenic / bad bacteria
A normal gut will have all three types of bacteria present, but a healthier gut will have a better balance of good bacteria over bad.
What are beneficial bacteria?
The broad name for beneficial bacteria is the term probiotics. Probiotics refer to many different types of strains. The most popular if these strains are:
- Tobacillus acidophilus
- Acidophilus bifidus
- Streptococcus faecium
What role does good bacteria play in the gut?
Helps with digestion
Keeps away bad bacteria
Synthesise some vitamins (K+B)
Generate short chain fatty acids
Improve our immune system
Improves our mental health.
Having plenty of good bacteria helps maintain a healthy gut and in general improves our mental and physical wellbeing. The good bacteria are responsible for carrying out many metabolic processes in the human body, including the breakdown of non-digestible dietary materials to generate short chain fatty acids and the synthesis of some vitamins (such as K and B). New research is also linking the role that good bacteria play in reducing inflammation and improving our immune response.
Our gut microbiome ‘the collection of bacteria’ in our digestive tracts is individual to us and not even identical twins have the same balance of bacteria making it as unique as our fingerprints. 95% of our bacteria is found in our large intestine and the remaining 5% is found in our small intestine.
What may have caused an imbalance in our gut bacteria?
An imbalance in our gut microbiome is also referred to as dysbiosis and many factors can alter the balance of good vs bad bacteria in our guts.
Modern lifestyles play a role in reducing the balance including:
5 causes of an unhappy gut:
Gut dysbiosis and its role on our health is an ongoing area of research. There has been lots of recent evidence showing that a better balance of good over bad bacteria has positive effects on our health, mood and digestive health. New research is now underway to look at its effect on other body systems, as diverse as mental health, skin and even weight management.
How to get a healthy microbiome?
Your microbiome is unique to you and a new lifestyle or diet should be personalised to you and your needs. In general, it is advised to support your microbiome by implementing:
8 ways to have a healthy gut:
Better relaxation – increase your sleep and reduce stress levels
Eat a diverse selection of fibre, vegetables and fruits
Eat more fermented foods
Consume pre and probiotics
Moderate exercise often
Consume enough water
If you are interested in a personalised nutrition recommendation you can book a consultation with our specialist nutritionists who can provide you with your personalised food choices and lifestyle recommendations helping you to understand what foods and lifestyle changes would give you a healthier gut microbiome.