It is believed that 90% of human cells are not of human origin; hence the saying we are only 10% human! So what are these non-human bits? Well they largely make up our various microbiotas; found on our skin, in our mouth, genitalia and of course our gastrointestinal tract.
The microbiome, or microbiota is an important modifier of both health and disease, so let’s take a look at the one found in our gut to start off with.
The intestinal microbiota is the collection of all microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome is the collective genome of these microorganisms. Bacteria make up most microbial cells, showing an increase in abundance from the stomach to the colon (in short – you find more bugs the further down you go).
The thing is, we have both good bugs and bad bugs, and one of the roles of the good bugs is to keep the bad bugs in check. When the bad bugs start to outnumber the good bugs, we start to have problems. Gut dysbiosis is when there is a skew in the community which becomes dysfunctional for the host and has been linked to poor immune function, allergies, neurodegeneration and more!
We tend to have four main causes of gut dysbiosis:
Here we are generally talking about undigested nutrients – so if any part of our digestive system isn’t working as it should. This can be poor stomach acid production, issues with liver or pancreatic function or even chronic stress affecting our ability to digest our food effectively.
The most common cause of this is the administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Whilst there is often a place for antibiotics, we must pay attention to their correct usage (finishing a course in its entirety for example). Antibiotics aren’t fussy – they take all the bugs with them, both bad and good!
This is of interest in cases like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. As we mentioned, bug numbers should increase the further down the GI tract we go, but certain factors can contribute to an overgrowth in bugs in the wrong places, like in the small intestine. This is often due to low stomach acid production, or poor motility (often a result of stress).
It is well known that both chronic and acute stressors can shift the gut bacteria in multiple regions and habitats. Furthermore, those pesky stress hormones can increase certain bacterial levels 10,000-fold – they can also increase their infectiousness in just 14 hours! These pathogenic bacteria may crowd out the beneficial species.
Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to support our gut and promote eubiosis.
Variety is the spice of life – diverse diets promote diverse microbiotas.
Eat your fruit and veg – most fruit and veg contains fibre which feeds your microbiome!
Mindful use of antibiotics and long-term medications
Stress management - it's easy to say avoid stress, but we live in the real world and know that isn't possible. So, consider your stress resilience and strategies that work for you.
Finally, prep those polyphenols - polyphenols act by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting the growth of pathogens.
And you’ll find those polyphenols in our Fivaday. Clinically proven to provide an antioxidant boost equivalent to five portions of fruit and veg.
Head on over to the shop to grab yours.