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Gut microbiota and our health: What role do microorganisms plan in our overall health and lifestyle?

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

What is the gut microbiota?

The gut microbiome is found within our digestive tract. It is considered the second brain of the body that consists of a complex arrangement of bacteria and other microorganisms communicating and interacting with one another [1].

Where is the human gut microbiome found?

  • Stomach

  • Small intestine

  • Large intestine

Factors affecting the gut microbiome?

Positive factors affecting the gut microbiome

  • Birth

  • Breastfeeding [2]

  • Diet (fibre, prebiotics, probiotics, etc…)

  • Non-endurance exercise

  • Sleep

  • Geography – associated with dietary differences

Negative factors affecting the gut microbiome

  • Antibiotics

  • Stress

  • Endurance exercise

  • Jetlag, disrupts daily microbiota fluctuations

  • Smoking

  • Infections – change gut microbiota concentrations

  • Medications (e.g. antibiotics, NSAIDs, etc…)

The gut microbiome is associated with adverse health effects

When the gut microbiome is disrupted, then disease can occur.

Some adverse health conditions caused by an unbalanced gut microbiome are:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) [3]

  • Ulcerative colitis (UC) [4, 5]

  • Crohn’s disease (CD) [6, 7]

  • Obesity [8-10]

  • Diabetes [11-13]

  • Liver disease [14, 15]

  • Chronic heart disease [16, 17]

  • Cancers (e.g. stomach, intestine and prostate cancers) [18, 19]

  • HIV [20]

  • Autism [21, 22]

How to manage a healthy gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is replaced every 3-4 days. Therefore, managing a healthy microbiome is a long-term commitment to your digestive health.

It is encouraged that a varied diet of many food groups is encouraged.

Consumption of the following aid in the healthy colonisation of the gut microbiome:

  • Pre-biotic: fruits (grapes, pomegranate, cranberries)

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides

  • Inulin (chicory root, garlic, bananas, onions)

  • Probiotic supplements

  • High fibre

  • Fermented foods (yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh) [23]

It is important to understand what causes disease so that we can make conscious decisions to minimise our risks.

Let's prevent disease rather than treat one

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[18] Weir TL, Manter DK, Sheflin AM, Barnett BA, Heuberger AL, Ryan EP. Stool Microbiome and Metabolome Differences between Colorectal Cancer Patients and Healthy Adults. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(8):e70803.

[19] Chu F-F, Esworthy RS, Chu PG, Longmate JA, Huycke MM, Wilczynski S, et al. Bacteria-Induced Intestinal Cancer in Mice with Disrupted <b> <i>Gpx1</i> </b> and <b> <i>Gpx2</i> </b> Genes. Cancer Research. 2004;64(3):962-8.

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