Many health-care practitioners are becoming increasingly aware of the influence that your gut health has on your general well-being. While talking about gut health may not be comfortable for many people, discussing intestinal health is nonetheless an important conversation to have. Your microbiome, the trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in your intestinal tract, as well as on your skin, can be an important indicator of your overall health. Here are nine facts about your microbiome and how it can influence your health and weight:
1. Your microbiome population is enormous The microbiome in your body consists of approximately 100 trillion living microbes. To help you visualise how vast this is – imagine that one trillion $5 bills laid end to end would be enough to reach all the way from the earth to the sun and back again, with kilometres left to spare. Now, times that by 100. If you can visualise that you will start to get a general idea of the amount of beneficial bacteria living inside you.
2. Your microbiome is incredibly complex Within your gut, there are hundreds of different bacterial species. The bacterial diversity making up your microbiome is an essential component of your health, and the greater the diversity of your microbiome the better your health tends to be. Microbiome diversity is fostered by the things we come into contact with, such as the dirt we dig in, the animals we work and play with and the foods we eat.
3. You are mostly bacteria With your gut holding 100 trillion microbes, and your body being made up of 10 trillion human cells, you have 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells! Moreover, the genes of your microbiome far outnumber your genes by 100 to 1.
4. Your microbiome is the foundation of good health Thousands of years ago the Greek physician Hippocrates stated, "All disease begins in the gut”, and modern science is finally catching up. Many health problems that have long been thought to be unrelated to gut health are now starting to be linked to issues of microbiome dysfunctions. Examples include mental health, immune health and skin health.
5. Microbiome has a huge influence on immune function If you are feeling run down, or even chronically ill, it may be related to poor microbiome health. Did you know that a whopping 75 to 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut!
6. Microbiome deficiency may not present with normal gut-health symptoms Even if you aren't experiencing bloating, diarrhoea, constipation or Irritable Bowel Syndrome like symptoms it doesn't necessarily mean your health issues aren't gut related. Many underlying intestinal problems have little to no apparent gut symptoms, but do have systemic reactions somewhere else in your body. Three common gut problems that are sometimes asymptomatic in the gut, but still affect your health elsewhere, are:
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, common called SIBO
- Candida Overgrowth If you are experiencing any health issues you should consider being checked for an underlying microbiome dysfunction.
7. Microbiome are considered your second brain Some medical literature has started referring to your gut as your "second brain". The connection between gut health and brain health, referred to as the gut-brain axis, is something now being explored in many medical studies. As an example, low mood and mild anxiety have been linked to low levels of the bacterial strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. An astonishing 95 percent of serotonin, your “happy mood” neurotransmitter, is produced and stored in your intestinal tract. Patients struggling with psychological issues and brain fog can often show bacterial- and yeast-related problems in their lab results.
8. Microbiome can influence weight New research has suggested the gut may be responsible for chronic weight-loss resistance. A study published in the scientific journal Nature indicated weight gain to be associated with bacterial imbalances in the gut, specifically increased numbers of the bacteria Firmicutes. A separate 2015 study showed adults with metabolic syndrome who started a regiment of probiotic supplements demonstrated improvements in triglyceride levels and other heart-disease risk factors.
9. Your diet influences your microbiome Never underestimate the affect your diet can have on your health. A recent study showed that polyphenols, found in foods including coffee, blueberries and extra-virgin olive oil, played a significant role in preventing degenerative diseases through improvement of your microbiome environment.