The Gut Microbiome

The Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome is the human body’s own ecosystem inside the gastrointestinal tract. It is formed by 1-2 years of age. Gut flora, gut microbome, and gut microbiota all can be used interchangeably to describe the microbes living in the GI tract. The microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, parasites, and fungi coexisting symbiotically with the human body. It weights about 5-10 pounds. Microbes communicate along the gut-brain axis via the vagus nerve. The microbes, gastric mucosa layer, and gut mucus layer work together to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. The microbes also play a critical role in the development and training of the human body’s immune system.

The gut microbiome inhabits the entire GI tract from the mouth to the colon. The human body and microbes live and work together symbiotically. The microbiome sends and receives messages from human cells and is constantly processing data for survival. Microbes in the small intestine live amongst the villi in the mucus layer. Villi are root-like projections that increase surface area for nutrient, food, and water absorption. The large intestine, or the colon, doesn’t contain villi, but contains the most amounts of microbes. The problem arises when the roots (villi) of the ecosystem become damaged and destroyed, along with the microbes not getting an adequate supply of the right foods (soil) to be able to thrive and function properly in the body. This causes bad bacteria to inhabit the gut and send wrong signals and bad messages to the brain.

Functions of the Gut Microbiome

There are trillions of microorganisms living in our gut that are good, beneficial bacteria. These bacteria have a strong working relationship and are constantly communicating with the neurons in our brain. The GI system has its own enteral nervous system; hence, why is it called the “second brain.” Gut bacteria are vital to our health, play numerous roles, and provide many benefits. Above are key roles of the bacteria in our gut, but those are definitely not all of them. One of the most important roles of good bacteria is regulate our immune system. They protect us against pathogen colonization and invasion of harmful microbes that enter the body every single day. Changes and imbalance of the microbiota is where things go wrong and poor gut health begins. This can lead to weight gain, obesity, hormonal imbalances, mental health disorders, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammation. Exercise, stress management, a gut-friendly diet, and consuming probiotics are some ways to start improving gut bacteria.

How to Boost Gut Microbiome Diversity

Microbiome diversity in the gut is a crucial key to optimal health, overall wellbeing, and longevity. The goal is to have many different bacterial species and a decent amount of individual bacteria for each species inhabitant. The gut microbiome has a wide range of functions and thrives off a wide variety of bacteria to perform them. This strengthens the immune system and inflammatory response. Above are some solid tips to keep your microbiome fed, diverse, and able to thrive.

It is important to consume a wide variety of whole foods to ensure that the microbiome is adequately nourished. Eating the same 3-4 meals every week even if they are healthy, does not help promote diversity. Exercise is another way top way to diversify the gut bacteria. It enriches the quality and quantity of the gut microflora. Physical fitness allows the microbiome to function at peak level. Getting adequate amounts of sunlight/UVB light in the mornings greatly strengthens the microbiome and boosts energy levels and production. Lastly, most importantly, only take antibiotics if a bacterial infection is proven to be present and medically indicated. Common colds and sinus viruses do not warrant antibiotic treatment.

The Gut Microbiome + Energy Metabolism

The gut microbiome plays a central role in energy metabolism. Its energy production directly correlates with its microbial composition. Genetics, diet, and environmental exposure to chemicals and toxins influence the microbiome. Our gut bacteria are able to digest most plant compounds, like cellulose, starches, and glycogen to produce short-chain fatty acids that are crucial energy substrates. A balanced, well-nourished gut microbiome contributes to proper energy extraction and collection. This sets us up on the path of normal weight, optimal energy levels, adequate nutrition, and healthy digestion. It is imperative to nourish and feed the gut microbiome what it wants to eat.

Environmental Exposure + Gut Microbiome Toxicity

It is important to be aware of the amount of environmental toxins we are consistently exposed to. They are truly destroying our microbiomes. The gut microbiome is a vital source of beneficial vitamins and nutrients.  With modern day farming practices and the 9-5 work life, it is highly possible, that gut dysbiosis could occur. Consistent environmental exposure to toxic chemicals, antibiotics, heavy metals, pesticides, and artificial sweeteners can cause gut microbiome toxicity. Toxicity in the microbiome is environmentally driven functional damage in the gut bacteria. Loss of diversity in bacteria populations occurs, energy metabolism in the mitochondria is disrupted, and bacterial and pro-inflammatory metabolites are produced. This interrupts digestion, gene expression, metabolic pathways, composition balance, energy extraction, and hypothalamic function. Eventually, this leads to poor signaling cascades along the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis and gut-brain-skin axis, hormone imbalances, poor neurotransmitter production, obesity, low-grade inflammation, disrupted glucose homeostasis and insulin secretion, causing chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.

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