What is gut health – what is gut bacteria?
By now you probably know you have a little ecosystem of bacteria living in your intestines, but did you know that this ecosystem contains about 1-2 kg of living bacteria? These tiny organisms actually outnumber us by 10 to 1, with 10 times as many bacteria cells in your gut as there are cells in your entire body. These bacteria or “microbiota” make up what is known as your Gut Microbiome.
What does a healthy gut look like?
Despite science moving very quickly in the area of gut microbiome, we still don’t have a lot of answers. In terms of what a healthy gut looks like, all we know for sure is that a lot of bacteria (abundance) is a good thing, and a lot of different types of bacteria (diversity) is also a good thing. Researchers have also found that although gut microbiome varies hugely from person to person, how the bacteria behave is similar. This leads us to believe that there are actually many different ways to have healthy gut microbiome, and this varies from person to person.
What determines your gut microbiome?
Each person’s unique gut microbiota has developed as a result of numerous influences including birth, diet, exercise habits, medications, geographical setting and stress levels, just to name a few. Science is only just beginning to understand the human gut microbiome, but its influence on health and disease is evident, making it currently one of the most exciting areas of research.
What does gut microbiota do for us?
Gut microbiota and people live together in a mutually beneficial relationship. We feed them and in return they do a range good things for us including:
- Break down food: Gut microbiota break down and ferment certain carbohydrates, this creates short chain fatty acids which provide nourishment for gut bacteria and appear to play an important role in prevention of diabetes, heart disease, bowel conditions like (IBD and IBS) and even bowel cancers. In addition, gut microbiota is also involved in the break down and absorption of fats and proteins.
- Make vitamins: Vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting and bone metabolism is made by gut microbiota.
- Make neurotransmitters: Gut microbiome generates the majority of your feel good hormones serotonin & dopamine, influences mental health, anxiety and depression.
- Break down toxins and pathogens by providing a physical barrier preventing them from entering the body
- Body weight: Research shows that gut microbiome also varies by body weight and that gut microbiome changes if we lose or gain weight too.
Your gut microbiome affects your body throughout life. It regulates digestion, immunity, mental health and countless other bodily processes. Having a healthy gut is kind of like having pets that live in your intestines. If you look after them, they will look after you in return.
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