Our Review Process
Our articles undergo extensive medical review by board-certified practitioners to confirm that all factual inferences with respect to medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, and protocols are legitimate, canonical, and adhere to current guidelines and the latest discoveries. Read more.
Our Editorial Team
Shifa Fatima, MSc.
Dr. Apoorva T, MHM.
Does Your Gut Microbiome Hold The Key To Better Health?
These bacteria and fungi make up the gut microbiome. Their complex interaction is associated with the human body and different body functions such as immunity, digestion, protection and secretion of various beneficial substances including vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin K and thiamine.
Table of Contents
Importance of Gut Microbiome
A person gets first introduced to microorganisms while passing through the mother’s birth canal and slowly develops diversified microflora with time. The diversity and load of a person’s gut microorganisms can affect metabolic health like one’s resistance to invading pathogenic organisms. Unbalanced gut flora can result in chronic gastric diseases such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disorders, and food poisoning, as well as can even induce autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.
Symptoms & Factors causing an Imbalance in Gut Health
Dysbiosis is the imbalanced state of the gut microbiome, which results in a decrease in beneficial bacteria like firmicutes and bacteroides and an increase in harmful bacteria like Clostridia, Klebsiella and Enterococcus and other species affecting the gut health seriously, leading to stomach cramping, frequent diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion and stomach bloating.
- Stomach disorders because of difficulty in indigestion
- A diet rich in refined sugar and processed foods can damage the gut microbiome by triggering inflammatory signals.
- Unreasonable changes in body weight: An increase in weight can be because of insulin resistance, whereas weight loss can be because of the overgrowth of bacterial colonies in the small intestine (also known as SIBO).
- Skin allergies such as redness, eczema and itching
- Food intolerances because of problems with indigestion
- Diet: An imbalanced diet lacking in essential fibres and rich in fat and animal protein is the main factor of dysbiosis. A vegetarian diet helps in the growth and attachment of good bacteria like Ruminococcus, Eubacterium, Firmicutes and Roseburia in the gut, strengthening the intestinal lumen.
- Infection: Pathogenic microorganisms can kill commensal microflora causing health problems.
- Antibiotics: The unnecessary use of antibiotics can also kill beneficial and pathogens disrupting gut health.
- Age: With growing age, our immunity grows weak, and different health problems associated with it can cause dysbiosis.
- Lack of physical activity can affect one’s appetite and digestion. Exercise boosts the synthesis of short-chain fatty acids, the main food for gut bacteria, thereby increasing metabolic health.
- Anxiety: It affects intestinal motility, i.e., the proper movement of food from the mouth to the stomach and then into the intestines. Gastric and visceral sensations and intestinal permeability also contribute to this motility. (free passage of foods around intestinal walls.)
- Smoking and drinking
Gut Microbiome and Metabolic Health
Some bacteria can break down plant molecules such as starch, increasing digestion. Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that when ingested, promote the colonisation of helpful microflora and possibly cure stomach upset, loose motion and food poisoning. Prebiotics are foods such as plant fibres that help in the proliferation of probiotics. This interaction of pro-pre and gut microbiome improves overall metabolic health.
The gut microbiome can also affect weight gain
Certain microorganisms such as Akkermansia muciniphila feed on the intestinal mucus layer, inducing the excess synthesis of mucus. This helps form a thick layer of mucus barrier that hinders infection by external pathogens and the entry of toxic metabolites, providing extra protection. This also prevents unwanted inflammatory responses. This bacterium also affects the metabolism of glucose and fats. A balanced gut microflora ensures proper signalling of satiety (hunger) hormones, thereby controlling obesity.
The gut microbiome can also improve heart conditions
Some bacteria can break down choline and L-carnitine residues derived from red meats, eggs and high-fat animal proteins. This results in the production of trimethyl-N-oxide that directly contributes to atherosclerosis, artery hardening, plaque formation and subsequent heart attack. Studies show that people who consume probiotics or have a healthy gut flora have higher HDL levels or good cholesterol and thus have a healthy heart.
The gut microbiome may also lower blood sugar levels
Gut microorganisms can also affect blood sugar levels by acting on the liver to break down glycogen storage, increase one’s energy balance and decrease obesity. Studies show that a decline in gut microflora may be associated with an onset of diabetes (Type 1) by inducing inflammation and insulin resistance.
The gut microbiome can also affect brain functions
Research in mice shows that some strains of E.coli can secrete proteins that can result in protein misfolding, resulting in the loss of their functions. These abnormal proteins can reach the brain through the vagus nerve in the gut and cause various brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc. Gut bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphila, secretes niacinamide (VitB3) that improves these neural damages.
Moreover, gut microflora prompts the secretion of serotonin from the intestinal area. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that affects important brain functions, and 90% of serotonin is secreted from the GI tract. Serotonin plays an important role in controlling sleep, moods, digestion, blood coagulation, healing wounded tissues, appetite and bone health.
The gut microbiome may increase immunity
Breast milk in mothers is rich in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which increase the immunity of infants.
Gut bacteria can stimulate various inflammatory responses and help foster adaptive immunity in humans. Adaptive immunity is an essential defence mechanism that elicits a quicker immune response to known invading pathogens and toxins.
Tips for a Healthy Gut
- Eat verified foods like more plant proteins, fruits and a fibre-rich diet.
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and yoghurt that are rich in Lactobacilli.
- Take probiotic supplements.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners because they promote the growth of harmful Enterobacteriaceae bacteria.
- Increase prebiotics in your diet like oats, apples, asparagus, greens, soybeans, artichokes, leeks, garlic and unripe bananas.
- Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that reduce cholesterol, inflammation, blood pressure and oxidative stress in the body. Eat more polyphenol-rich foods such as grapes, red wine, dark chocolate, almonds, green tea, broccoli, onions and blueberries.
- Include whole grains, legumes and more plant proteins in your diet.
- Exercise daily.
- Use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor.
- Quit drinking and smoking.
Also read about grapes good for diabetes
Well-balanced gut microbiota is an important aspect of our health, and has a profound impact on our digestive properties and brain functions such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can be obtained by following a nutritional diet plan, refraining from sedentary lifestyles, consuming pro and prebiotics and working out regularly.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.