The Universe Inside

Microbiome

So, I just turned 47 and just when I thought I was getting to know myself I found out I'm not just "me". Yes, I talking about the microbiome. We are a whole community of which 23,000 genes are "human genome" and about 1,000,000 + genes are "human microbiome".

According to a recent National Institute of Health (NIH) estimate, 90% of cells in the human body are bacterial, fungal, or otherwise non-human. So we are something like a vessel for a massive inter-active community of genes of which a tiny amount is actually human.

All started at birth. When a mother delivers a baby in a natural way (vaginal delivery), the newborn gets impregnated with the mum's microbiome and which will "stick" to him/her for life. A baby delivered in other ways (i.e. cesarian) will be very likely to have deficient microbiome. Breast feeding is another important factor that will determine how healthy the gut microbiome of the person will be.

Our microbiota or microbiome is almost like a finger print; unique to each one of us, although similar to the one of our parents and siblings. Different kinds of microbiome are found in different parts of the body. It is like different ecosystems co-existing in the same body. The biggest and one of the most important micro-ecosystems is the GUT.

Now imagine the impact of a healthy or unhealthy population of microbe can have in our lives. Lots of skin conditions and allergies are possibly caused by the use of anti-bacterials. You may think it is a good idea to use one of those "Kills 99% of Bacterias" soaps... but be aware that these products will kill the"good" bacterias that protects your body as well. There are plenty of specialised soaps that use natural oils and are designed to protect your skin flora and eliminate the possibility of harmful bacterias affecting you.

Now, moving inside, I am sure you heard the expression "follow your gut" or "gut feeling" and more importantly, you've had felt that something in your stomach when you are anxious, angry, sad, in love...

Our gut microbiota plays a vital role in our physical and psychological health via its own neural network: the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which is a complex system of about 100 million nerves found in the lining of the gut. This is sometimes referred to as the “second brain".

We know that the gut and the brain communicate, so in the same way our feelings and thoughts can affect our digestive system/gut health, our gut health can affect our mood. More importantly, it was been clinically proven that poor gut health has been implicated in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

If we talk about antibiotics we can go forever, but just think about this: We are very lucky to have modern medicine and we should definitely use antibiotics correctly when it is really the only option (i.e. after surgery, extreme infections, etc), but even then we need to look after our gut health by following with a recovery stage using probiotics (i.e. kombucha, kimchi, kefir just to mention some). A vast variety and amount of bacterias is very important for our health. Some probiotics from the shelf have 6 or 8 "good bacterias" against 30 or 50 found in natural fermented options.  

There is a direct correlation between chronicle inflammation, gut health and mental health. You can find several medical papers and other sources that you can check if you want to investigate further, but I just want to give you some bullet points about what can you do to have a healthier gut microbiome and some facts that help me personally to gain some more awareness about what we are as human beings physiologically and psychologically.

I leave you now with these facts:

  • Your body has more microbes than human cells

  • You are born bacteria-free

  • Bacteria can be good and bad for you

  • Antibiotics can cause asthma and obesity

  • Store-bought probiotics are overrated

  • The health of your gut flora can affect your mood

  • There are over 100 million brain cells (neurons) in your gut

  • New research shows links between Autism and fewer strains of gut bacteria

  • Optimum nutrition (micro & macro nutrients) will promote a healthy and diverse microbiome

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Stefano Vitolo