The human body is a universe of trillions of microbes such as bacteria, bacteriophages, fungi, protozoa and certain viruses that live inside or outside the body. These microbes are found in the mouth, nose, but the majority is in the gut. Unlike disease-causing bacteria or viruses, these microbes are beneficial to us in many ways. They are extremely important for the digestive system, immune system, heart health, and other aspects of health. Most of the microbes in the gut are found in pockets of the intestinal lining and this microflora is referred to as the gut microbiome. Gut bacteria are the good guys that are helping our bodies in many ways. However, any significant change in the composition of this microflora can cause autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, autism, cancer and other related conditions.
In this blog, we will highlight why gut bacteria is important for our health.
The relationship between us and our gut bacteria is symbiotic, a mutually beneficial relationship. The bacteria inhabit a safe place and get plenty to eat and in return help our digestive system with the process of digestion. They help get the nourishment required by our bodies to survive and grow. These friendly bacteria produce enzymes that help in metabolism or the breakdown of sugars and digestion of cellulose. Additionally, they help in the synthesis of vitamin K, the supply of nutrients into the tissues, regulation of bowel movements and help in producing antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria.
Maintains Our Immune System:
Throughout our life, we are exposed to many harmful substances such as pathogens, pollen, dust, smoke, and many other substances. The immune system protects us from these constant threats and most of this activity takes place in our gut. Our gut is a place where the immune system and the bacteria meet. As much as 80% of the immune activity is the Gastrointestinal Tract. In fact, it is said that these gut bacteria educate our immune system from the moment we are born and all through the developmental stages. In healthy individuals, the beneficial flora produces antibiotics that can kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi. These antibiotics also create an environment that is harder for the harmful bacteria to thrive and cause any sort of infection.
Research has shown that gut bacteria may help regulate good and bad cholesterol levels, LDL (the bad cholesterol)can cause heart disease. Gut bacteria also play an important role in controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure and inflammation which also prevents the onset of heart disease.
The communication network between your gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis. Scientists believe that your gut talks back to the brain. Studies reveal that the balance of bacteria in the microbiome affects our emotions and the way the brain processes information from our senses. Scientists suspect that the changes in the balance of the microbiome are linked to autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety and possibly even mood and behavioral changes.
There are many ways to improve the gut microbiome by including the rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber and fermented foods. It is also encouraged to limit the use of antibiotics where possible as it takes bacteria weeks or months to re-establish themselves inside the gut. Although many studies prove the connection between gut bacteria and human health, research is still being conducted to find new ways to improve gut and overall health.