Gut flora/gut microbiome
Human intestinal flora is not only made up of bacteria. According to the Human Microbiome Project, it also contains billions of viruses, fungi and other microorganisms; it has 10 times more microorganisms than human cells and they represent 3% of our total body mass.
These bacteria also form the first line of defense against disease and infection.
When we talk about gut health and maintaining a healthy gut flora, we mean the 'good' bacteria that live in our guts and help us digest food, turn it into absorbable nutrients and also produce some of the waste from our body beneficial substances.
Gut bacteria: Why are they important?
Within these trillions of gut bacteria, there are about 1,000 species, represented by about 5,000 different bacterial strains. Everyone's gut flora/gut microbiome is unique. Each person carries around 100 trillion microbes in their body, mostly in their digestive tract. Like fingerprints, each gut flora is unique and distinct. Factors such as diet, lifestyle and antibiotics influence the way your gut flora is.
Our digestive system acts as a kind of battlefield between good bacteria and bad bacteria in which, of course, the good must win. The imbalance between good and bad bacteria, where the bad bacteria wins, causes what is known as intestinal dysbiosis or, in other words, a functional and qualitative alteration of the microbiota.
Scientists have discovered that the digestive system is much more complex than previously thought, as it has been linked to numerous health problems that apparently have nothing to do with digestion. Imbalances in human gut flora have been linked of autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis, obesity and heart disease.
How to know if the intestinal flora is out of balance?
There are some symptoms that alert us such as:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Abdominal pains
- Vaginal itching
- Skin rash
- Problems thinking or concentrating
Six ways to keep your gut flora healthy
Gut flora has a good thing, and although it can be altered and damaged, there are several ways to restore it and therefore achieve a healthy microbiome. Here are six tips to make it happen:
1. Follow a healthy and balanced diet: fiber keeps the intestinal cells healthy and ensures that the digestive system. Lack of fiber, for example, affects the gut microbiome, meaning there are fewer healthy bacterial strains compared to someone on a high-fiber diet.
Whole wheat bread, oatmeal, pears, melons, broccoli, carrots, legumes, nuts will help us get the fiber we need.
2. Eat more fermented foods – Bacteria are living organisms that need to eat. A healthy and varied diet is good for the bacteria living in the gut and supports a diverse ecosystem. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimfi or kefir contain probiotics (live bacteria), as do certain types of yogurt.
3. Drink enough water : any health advice always includes water as an essential factor; gut health is no exception. Water ensures that minerals and nutrients are properly absorbed into the body.
4. Do not abuse antibiotics: these drugs are important for treating infections and diseases caused by bacteria. Their mode of operation is what makes them dangerous: they affect both good bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) and bad bacteria. Some studies show that an excessive use of antibiotics can cause harmful changes in the composition and diversity of the intestinal flora.
5. Exposure to microbes – Oddly enough, this can help improve your gut flora. Because many of today's hygiene habits have removed the connection we once had with microbes. The result was a lack of diversity that could affect our health.
6. Get more exercise – By increasing blood flow to all the muscles, it keeps the digestive system moving, allowing food to pass through it much faster.
Probiotics and prebiotics, yes or no? and what type of pre- or probiotics suit you?
They are two very different concepts, but both with beneficial effects on the intestinal flora.
Probiotics they are living organisms that manage to repopulate our flora. It works as a kind of glue that sticks to the intestinal lining and prevents bad bacteria from sticking. They are found in fermented dairy products such as those we discussed, natural yogurts or milk kefir. Therefore, they act as protectors.
Prebiotics , on the other hand, serve the good bacteria as food so that bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are generated in the colon. We usually find them in foods like tomatoes, onions, bananas and artichokes. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAAP), prebiotics are often types of fiber that the human body cannot digest and that serve as food for the beneficial microorganisms that live in the colon.
What type of probiotics are right for you?
Before ingesting a pre-probiotic, it is essential to evaluate the bacterial flora through a chair test. Following the results, you will know exactly which type of probiotics or prebiotics are good for balancing the intestinal flora.