Professor Robert Knight of the University of California, San Diego, US spoke to the BBC in 2018 stating that scientists say our human cells only make up 43% of the total cells in our body, the rest is bacteria.
Hippocrates is regarded as the Father of Medicine, author of the Hippocratic oath and a medical practitioner. He stated “All Disease Begins in The Gut”. It’s common to overlook the health of our gastrointestinal system, even though it contains 10 times more health-determining bacteria than the rest of our body; protecting us from infection, supporting our metabolism, and promoting healthy digestion and elimination. Quote from Hippocrates circa 400 BC
SO UNDERSTANDING OUR GUT MICROBIOME IS KEY:
The Human Microbiome Project says “The Human Body has 100 trillion microscopic life forms living in it”!
So What Is The Human Microbiome?
The billions of microbes that call the human body home are called the human microbiome. This vast community is composed of mostly bacteria, but viruses, fungi and parasites also live within us all.
So where does it live?
The gut microbiome live in the intestine, one of the main areas in our bodies which comes into contact with the external environment (other examples are the skin and the lungs).
So what does it do?
The human microbiome plays an important role in health. Technological advances and years of research mean we can measure the hundreds of species present in our gut and begin to understand how they affect us.
So what do we know?
The human gut microbiome contains approximately 1000 different species of bacteria – one of the most diverse microbial habitats in the human body.
- Most human microbes are acquired after birth by coming into contact with the environment.
- Up until the age of 3 the microbes are changing, becoming more and more diverse.
- Around 3 years of age a child has developed adult microbiome.
Generally the gut microbiome are stable over time, once established, however, a number of studies indicate that extreme forces, such as antibiotics, can alter the microbes in the gastro intestinal tract.
REF; NUTR REV. 2012 AUG: 70 (SUPPL 1)S38-S44
So what can we do to help keep our microbiome healthy?
- The food that we consume feeds all the hundreds of trillions of bacteria living in our digestive system.
- Prebiotics and probiotics are the most widely studied elements of the gut microbiome, so they can both impact the condition of the digestive system.
- A prebiotic is sometimes called fermentable fibre (initially introduced in 1995 by Gibson and Roberfroid). Prebiotics are essentially indigestible ingredients in food which stimulate the growth and activity of some bacterial species.
- Prebiotics can be found naturally in foods or be added to them. They are naturally present in:-
Garlic: Onions: Leeks: Asparagus: Artichokes: Tomatoes: Bananas: Plums: Apples: In Cereals such as Bran and in Nuts like Almonds:
A fibre rich diet benefits gut bacteria, but excess fibre may lead to discomfort or abdominal bloating, so understanding our own body’s needs is important.
Microbial diversity is important.
We can increase diversity by:
- increasing the number of plant foods eaten each week. **
- And by consuming fermented foods.
Healthy balanced Microbiome:
- Break down food the body can’t digest.
- Protect the gut from pathogens.
- Can affect mood and appetite.
- Synthesise vitamins which cannot be accessed from food such as, Vitamin K and B12.
** A simple exercise you can achieve at home:-
A varied diet which is rich in colourful foods helps feed a diverse gut flora. Keep a track of each different food you eat for a week and aim for at least 50 foods, mostly plant based, and of different colours of the rainbow, the brighter the better. Note down every food, only once for the next 7 days to assess your diet’s diversity. Examples: Red and White Onions count as 2 foods. Wheat products such as bread and pasta count as 1 food. Herbs, spices and oils all count as individual foods.
For Professional Guidance and an Individual Specifically Devised Programme consult a Regulated Nutritional Therapist.