Our gut microbiome is a huge ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, yeasts, fungi and viruses that colonise the whole mucosal lining of the bowel. Research into what some scientists call another organ in its own right, shows that the gut microbiome plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing.
The gut microbiome influences both our normal physiology and also diseases processes, and a weak gut microbiome has also been linked to dermatological conditions including eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
The gut microbiome supports our bodies by performing some essential functions, including food metabolism, vitamin production, influencing levels of cholesterol and blood lipids, helping to protect our blood vessels and reducing blood pressure. The gut microbiome is also involved in the development of inflammatory cells, allowing it to lower levels of inflammation both in the bowel and throughout the body, reducing chronic systemic inflammation. It also plays a vital role in our immune system.
Our gut is where serotonin, our happy hormone is made. Our gut microbiome has a big role to play in stress management, and has been linked to both brain health and mental health. Research has also shown that the gut microbiome influences metabolism and may be influential with our weight and appetite, and that when functioning well it also helps to control allergies.
Disruption in the gut microbiome has been linked to indigestion, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity and metabolic syndrome; conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The gut microbiome is influenced by genetics, environment factors such as antibiotics, and diet. When we don’t have a good diversity of microorganisms throughout our gut, we can start to get many symptoms and illnesses that we wouldn’t have linked to our intestines at all! The skin also has a microbiome, and research has highlighted a link between the two. Studies into the causes of rosacea, for example, have found imbalances of certain bacteria in the gut of rosacea patients, as well as H.Pylori colonisation in the stomach, which is also linked to various gastrointestinal conditions including ulcers.
So how do we strengthen our gut microbiome and reap the health benefits?
Probiotics are live bacteria that we ingest to add some beneficial bacteria to our gut. Prebiotics are natural fibres that we ingest to feed all of the beneficial microorganisms in our bowel that then multiply and create a stronger, healthier microbiome. When prebiotic fibres are broken down by the microbiome, they produce by-products, which support the immune system and the body’s inflammatory response, reducing allergies, and they also help glucose metabolise, so you get reduced blood sugar spikes. Some scientists believe that these by-products may also prevent some bowel cancers.
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