Intestinal Microbiota - Part 1
Is really true that our health starts in our mouth?
Well, this is partly true. Our mouth is at the beginning of our digestive system. And, after the process of chewing our food, it starts moving through our digestive tract in order to be digested and absorbed in our gut.
This process, when properly functioning, guarantees us to receive crucial nutrients needed for optimal function of our body and consequently good health.
However, based on scientific research our health begins in our gut or, more specifically, in our gut microbiota or, intestinal flora. Therefore, depends on how homeostatic or balanced our gut microbiome is.
Besides, in order to have a balanced intestinal microbiota with plenty of beneficial bacteria or what is called “good guys”, a few essential factors are needed, such as an anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense diet, a balanced lifestyle, stress management, among others.
So, since good health depends on how balanced our gut microbiome is, lets better understand this mechanism?
What is a microbiome or intestinal flora?
Gut microbiome, gut flora or, gut bacteria (all the same), refers to the community of microorganisms that are living in our gut. Actually, more than 100 trillion microorganisms that are quite diverse, with more than 1000 different species.
That literally means that we have ten times more microbes in our bodies than we do have human cells, and they are mainly composed of bacteria, but also include viruses, fungi, protozoa, and archaea that are residing in and on our bodies; literally sharing our body space with us.
Why does our gut microbiome matter?
Our microbiome or intestinal flora is so important that scientists are considering it a hidden virtual organ. Also, they say that having a homeostatic gut environment, or a health and balanced gut microbiota is necessary for a healthy life.
This is due to the fact that most of our gut microbes are harmless and beneficial to us when they are in balance.
So, this community of microbes offer us many benefits such as regulating our metabolism and are essential to a normal digestion and nutrition (some of these microbes digest dietary fibers, while others synthetize essential nutrients). Also, they protect us against infections and pathogenic bacteria.
In addition, our intestinal microbiota is the residence of most of our immune cells (between 70 to 80 percent of immune cells are in our gut)..
In this way, our intestinal microbiota, depending on it state, can influence a normal physiology (when in equilibrium) or, creates susceptibilities to diseases (when unbalanced, with a disordered growth of bacteria or, dysbiosis).
What factors adversely affect our gut microbiota?
Diet has been shown to significantly shape the composition of the gut microbial community. This means that depending on the food we eat may harmfully and dynamically affect our gut microbes in a matter of days.
In addition, our diet is super relevant in changing diversity of our gut flora. Thus, macronutrients, fat, carbohydrates and proteins play an important role in shaping the composition and activity of this complex microbe’s population.
There are also a few other factors that may dynamically influence the composition of our gut microbiome, such as:
- Chronic stress (bowel-brain communication)
- Chronic inflammation
- Intestinal infection
- Antibiotics and medication use
- Physical inactivity
- Genetic predisposition
This is a long topic that has lots of important details. So, I divided this article into 2 parts, and in part II I will talk about how the composition of the intestinal flora varies between individuals, what chronic health conditions are associated with an unbalanced or disrupted gut microbiota, and more.
Most importantly, I want you to be aware that small changes in diet and lifestyle are powerful and free tools we all have in our favor, and the best way to prevent chronic illnesses.
See you soon, and
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