Miracle of the Microbiome
So our microbiome is what makes us uniquely individual – not our DNA.
What is the microbiome? How does it influence who we are and how we feel?
Microbiome – collection of microorganisms bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and parasites – not visible with the naked eye but under a microscope there are trillions and trillions of these microbes. We are covered from top to toe, inside and out. We have far more microbial cells than we have human cells, about 100 trillion micro organisms living in us!
They cover every millimeter of our bodies. They are on all external surfaces – Skin, mouth, genitals – but the highest concentration exists in your colon. We are in fact what is called a Holobiome, a walking talking rain forest, an extremely complex human ecosystem, made up of thousands of different species that have to work together in order to convert the health and benefit of the whole.
“So the most important thing to human health turns out not to be human!”
The Microbiome is the collection of organisms and all of their genetic elements in relation to the host – that’s us, we are the host. They go to work in your colon and are a critical part of human health and essential for our Gut Health.
Diversity of the Mircobiome
Once of the most important things about our microbiome is DIVERSITY. Do you remember the Potato famine that happened many decades ago in Ireland? All the farmers found an excellent producing variety and all planted the same crop species. Consequently, a blight came by and wiped out the entire production of potatoes, creating the great potato famine of 1845 to 1849.
One of the biggest drivers impacting their diversity is the Western / Modern diet – highly processed, high sugar, chemical laden fatty foods, and as a result, we are seeing chronic disease rise to epidemic proportions. Not only does this bad diet destroy beneficial microbes, it subsequently allows proliferation of “bad” bacteria which produce compounds that are actually toxic to the human body.
A signature pattern identified in individuals that have a very high processed diet, is very low levels of diversity and “keystone” species. These “keystone” species are highly important organisms that hold up the rest of the microbiome and protect it against invasion or against over production of certain types of pathogenic compounds. Therefore, these species are extremely important for the maintenance of a healthy microbiome.
So by increasing the diversity, we are more resilient to disease and inversely, the more we reduce the species, the more we lose the ability to protect against disease.
Studies are revealing that manipulating the microbiome can improve overall health. This manipulation is the effect of a varied diet on the microbiome diversity. Ancestral studies show that humans consumed up to 600 different types of foods annually, a typical western diet includes about 15 different types of food, and most of this is lacking plant based fiber. Our evolution is based on what is available to us in nature, the microbiome feed on what we eat.
The sad truth about the current situation is that we could change this rise in chronic disease tomorrow. Improving the environment, and subsequently our diet would have a huge impact on overall health.
Nature has a huge influence on our microbiome, from touching our surroundings to inhaling the air in our environment. This brings a super important dimension to being outside in nature to bring about a favourable influence on our microbiome.
The Microbial Ecology
The 2.5-3 million microbial genes in our system are over 120 times more microbial DNA than human DNA. This accounts for over 90% of all our biochemical functions essential for keeping us healthy.
In essence the Human and Microbial genes interact with each other to create functions that we have as a human organism. So we have harnessed the capacity of microbes to do what our human genes cannot. This includes breaking down certain molecules and vitamins from plants for example. So with the help of the unique enzymes of the microbiome, it helps break down our veggies and access the nutrients we would otherwise have difficulty doing so.
Improve and Maintain a Robust Microbiome
Diet plays a huge role in improving the diversity of your microbiome. Variety is key. Eating a mainly plant based diet (increasing the intake of Prebiotics(1)) with some animal and dairy protein. Ideally you want to eat organically produced food where possible.
Eat Healthy Fats – As you know, your cholesterol has two components – HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (Bad cholesterol). Fats that enhance your HDL count are good fats and are found in omega-3 fatty acid rich fishes, avocado, coconut, flaxseed, olive oil, seafood, and nuts.
Eat like a Rainbow, leafy greens, colourful fruits, try to aim for as many different coloured foods in your diet as possible.
The main take home is eat as close to the whole food as you possibly can. Ensure that you include fermented foods in your diet.
Symbiosis with our microbiome means we function as a whole organism.
Our health is never about just one thing, we need to look at the whole picture if we want to improve our health.
What is the gut microbiome?
- The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other single-celled organisms, that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the large intestine or colon.
- The gut microbiome is incredibly complex, consisting of trillions of microorganisms belonging to thousands of different species. Each person’s gut microbiome is unique.
- These microorganisms help break down dietary fibers and other complex carbohydrates that the human body cannot digest on its own, producing short-chain fatty acids and other metabolites that provide energy and support gut health.
- Plays a vital role in training and modulating the immune system.
- Overall, the gut microbiome is now recognized as a key determinant of overall health and disease susceptibility.
What is Dysbiosis?
Imbalances or disruptions in the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, have been linked to various health problems, including gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even neurological conditions.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are the soluble fibers in certain foods that are essential food for the gut microbiome.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotcs are the living bacteria produced when food is fermented and pass into the digestive tract. They aid in balancing the flora and fauna of the gut.
What are Postbiotics?
Postbiotics are metabolic by-products of microbial fermentation, including short-chain fatty acids and other bioactive compounds, that contribute to gut health.