The gut microbiome is a collection of microorganisms that inhabit our gut and perform a variety of important functions in our body. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. In today’s article, we will talk about how the gut microbiome affects overall health and how we can maintain a healthy microbiota.
The relationship between nutrition and aging has been studied extensively in recent years, and we can assure you that a healthy, balanced diet can positively influence longevity and quality of life. In addition, it has been shown that nutrition can affect the molecular processes underlying aging.
Beneficial functions of gut bacteria
- The gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Gut bacteria help break down food and nutrients that our body needs to stay healthy.
- They also produce vitamins and other essential compounds that the body itself cannot produce on its own. Therefore, intestinal dysbiosis, which is the disruption of the intestinal flora, can lead to digestive problems and imbalances in some micronutrients.
- In addition to its role in digestion, the gut microbiome is also involved in the regulation of the immune system. Some recent studies [1, 2] suggest that the gut microbiome may influence susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- They can protect us from pathogenic bacteria by different mechanisms: competing for nutrients and binding sites in the intestinal wall, modifying the pH of the gut, producing antibacterial substances, and influencing specific molecular signaling.
- The gut microbiome can also affect mental health. Communication between the brain and the gut, known as the brain-gut axis, is mediated by the gut microbiome. Some studies, such as this recent article published in the Harvard Journal (Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, 2022) , suggest that the gut microbiome may influence anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders [4, 5].
Gut flora and metabolic diseases
The composition of each intestinal flora can be very different, as it depends on different factors. For example, an unbalanced diet (high in ultra-processed and refined foods), stress, smoking, antibiotics and unfavorable environmental conditions influence the intestinal flora and the general condition and can trigger intestinal dysbiosis.
Furthermore, according to this article published in the journal Nature Genetics , the composition of the gut microbiome may be related to the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has been shown that people with more diverse gut microbiomes are less likely to develop these diseases . Therefore, maintaining a healthy and diverse gut microbiome can help prevent chronic diseases.
How to take care of the gut microbiome
Although the composition of the intestinal microbiota is different according to each person and lifestyle, there are certain components of the diet that play a very beneficial role in the maintenance of a healthy intestinal microbiota.
Fermentable fibers that serve as food for our bacteria are:
- Resistant starch: especially from potatoes, but we can also obtain it from sweet potatoes, rice or legumes. The trick is to cook these foods and refrigerate them overnight.
- Flax or chia mucilages. In addition to feeding the microbiota, they help regulate intestinal transit.
- Pectin: the best sources are apples and cooked carrots.
- Fructans: leek, onion, asparagus and artichoke.
- Beta-glucans: present in oats. They also help to reduce cholesterol.
On the other hand, fermented foods, have a probiotic effect, which increases the diversity of healthy bacteria. Some examples:
- Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage
- Pickles: vegetables such as carrots, radishes, onions, cucumbers, etc.
- Water kefir
- Kombucha: fermented tea
- Plum or umeboshi paste
- Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar: it is rich in enzymes that help, above all, to digest legumes.
- Unpasteurized miso
In summary, the gut microbiome can affect overall health in many different ways. Maintaining a healthy and diverse gut microbiome through a balanced diet, regular physical activity and other healthy habits can have a positive impact on our overall health. Gut dysbiosis can be treated with the right healthcare professional, keeping in mind tools such as fermentable fiber-rich foods, probiotics and prebiotics.
If you are interested in this type of articles and want to continue learning about digestive health and other related topics, we invite you to visit our blog at www.exheus.com/blog, or our YouTube channel, to watch the Impact Talk with Tania Pina where we discuss digestive health in more depth.