At a glance
What is the Gut Microbiome?
What Is the Gut Microbiome?
Your gut microbiome is like the planet’s environment. Or, as one scientific journal puts it, “the current study of the human microbiome borrows and exploits concepts from ecology (e.g., the community as the unit of study), environmental microbiology, population biology, and engineering disciplines, to name but a few.”
Given its importance in human health, the stability of the microbiome and its ability to handle external factors such as age, diet, and stress levels are crucial.
In simple terms, your microbiome is like a city: a home to millions of people who are rushing to get to wherever they need to be. Inside our bodies are more that 100 trillion microorganisms — including fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses — that are mainly located in the small and large intestines.
Normally, parasites, viruses, and the like are not welcome in most places — especially our bodies. But in a healthy microbiome, these species coexist peacefully without causing issues. However, the microbiome does contain microbes that are both helpful and potentially harmful, so it is important to know the difference between the two.
According to the School of Public Health at Harvard University, most microbes are symbiotic, which means that both the body and the microorganisms (also known as microbiota) benefit. Conversely, other microbes, albeit in smaller numbers, are pathogenic, which means they promote disease. And, as previously mentioned, the good (symbiotic) microbes and the bad (pathogenic) microbiomes can coexist in a healthy body without any real problems.
However, if something — say, an infectious illness — were to disturb the peace between symbiotic and pathogenic microbiomes, it may halt these peaceful interactions and lead to something called dysbiosis, which is an imbalance that can lead to illness.
How Does the Microbiome Influence Your Health?
For the most part, the trillions of microorganisms inside your body live in harmony with one another. But if an imbalance does occur, it could make your body more susceptible to disease. This is just one way your microbiome influences your health.
Here are some of the benefits of the human microbiome:
- The microbiota that live inside your body help stimulate your immune system, break down potentially harmful food compounds found in the things you eat, and help your body synthesize some vitamins and amino acids such as B Vitamins and Vitamin K.
- The microbiome also protects against harmful organisms that enter the body through contaminated food or drink.
- “Role of the Normal Gut Microbiota,” a journal entry published in World Journal of Gastroenterology , notes the gut microbiota plays a part in nutrient metabolism; it largely derives its nutrients from the carbohydrates in your diet. It has also shown to have a positive impact on lipid metabolism, as well as an impact on mineral absorption.
As you see, our gut microbiome affects our health in multiple ways. And according to The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health at the University of Washington, its role extends beyond the inside of your body, as it is essential for human development, immunity, and nutrition. For example, the gut microbiome is different between obese and lean twins. The obese twin has a lower diversity of bacteria and higher levels of enzymes. This means this twin is more efficient at digesting food and collecting calories. In fact, obesity has also been associated with a poor combination of microbes in the gut.
The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Digestive Health
Ask yourself, “if microbiota are so important to my health, how can I make sure that I can get enough of the right types?”
Well, it starts with probiotics. You’ve probably heard of probiotics, and they may even be part of your daily diet. The probiotics found in your food and dietary supplements naturally contain microbiota and live active bacteria that are built to benefit your digestive health.
- Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live inside your microbiome and help keep your body healthy and functioning.
- Probiotics also fight the “bad” bacteria in your body.
- But for that to happen, your body needs prebiotics — which is the “food” for your probiotics. This is the source of nutrition for the “good” bacteria in your microbiome.
- That’s right — probiotics need healthy food to support their wellbeing, just like us.
And though both probiotics and prebiotics are built to support your digestive wellbeing (and even share similar names), they operate in different ways, says Jason Kam, VP of Product Development at Purity Products®.
“There’s a lot of debate about probiotics and how much they work,” states Kam. The problem is that there’s not a lot of proof [probiotics] get past your digestive system. The goal of a probiotic is to recolonize and repopulate. And to do that, it has to survive through the stomach and plant itself in the intestinal tract.”
Kam continued, “Prebiotics nourish the existing microflora that are already there. What’s been shown across prebiotics in the market is that they generally allow those colonies to grow dramatically. So, using prebiotics is a way to feed the bacteria as opposed to reseed them, which may not work if the bacteria isn’t packaged right and if the colony-forming unit isn’t right.”
Simply put, the main job of probiotics is to maintain a healthy balance in your body.
Cleveland Clinic’s piece on probiotics does a great job breaking it down:
“Think of it as keeping your body in neutral. When you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. This knocks your body out of balance. Good bacteria work to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.”
Nutritional Support for Your Microbiome
You’ve probably seen commercials or advertisements for probiotics. They are found in yogurt, sauerkraut, and other foods, but chances are most of the ads you see are for dietary supplements containing probiotics.
After all, both prebiotics and probiotics are quite popular. A 2012 National Health Interview Survey showed that 4 million American adults had used probiotics or prebiotics in the past 30 days. Furthermore, the use of probiotics by adults quadrupled between 2007 and 2012.
And due to the growing popularity of probiotics, it only makes sense that the market for them is filled to the brim. But with that said, it is important to be mindful of exactly what kind of probiotic you decide to use to support your gut health.
Here’s a few ingredients you may not have heard about yet:
PreforPro® is a unique prebiotic that works fast to benefit your digestive and microbiome health. The power of PreforPro® has been put on display in over 20 clinical studies — especially studies that focused on getting the most out of probiotics.
And though we’ve already discussed how prebiotics are used as food for probiotics, this unique prebiotic comes equipped with the following benefits and plays a role in multiple important areas:
- Only requires a small dose
- Does not cause gas or bloating
- Helps keep your intestinal tract healthy
- Involved in the growth of beneficial gut flora
- May help relieve occasional gut discomfort
- Boosts beneficial gut flora that aids normal immune system function
- Supports urinary tract health
And like we said earlier, the market for probiotics is flooded. Between the strange names, multiple strains, and a seemingly endless number of CFUs, choosing the right probiotic can be a struggle. Therefore, it is important to look at the science when choosing a probiotic — including the clinical studies.
A second unique supplement for digestive health known as DE111® has undergone more than 30 clinical studies for safety and effectiveness. Known as Bacillus subtilis in scientific circles, DE111® has been shown in clinical studies to:
- Work at low doses
- Stimulate normal gut microflora and microbiome diversity
- Boost digestive health and digestive comfort
- Help digestive regularity and normal bowel movements, as well as help relieve occasional mild constipation and/or diarrhea
- Support cholesterol levels already in the normal range, and even support immune system health
The Gut-Brain Connection
The Medical School at Harvard University urges you to pay attention to your gut-brain connection — and for good reason. You see, this duo is linked to anxiety and digestion problems because your gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. This is caused by chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals are produced in your brain and control feelings and emotions, such as feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, elation. And, as a matter of fact, many of these neurotransmitters are also produced by the cells in your gut. This is why you sometimes feel “butterflies” in your stomach!
Your stomach and your brain share a direct line to one another. Believe it or not, simply thinking about eating can release the stomach’s juices before the food even reaches where it needs to go.
This connection goes both ways — a needy stomach can “talk” to your brain to let it know what it wants, just as your brain can set up a beacon to your stomach.
Your gut microbiome also produces other chemicals that impact how your brain works. These other chemicals, known as short-chain fatty acids, or SCFA, are produced by digesting fiber. SCFA can affect your brain function in multiple ways, including reducing your appetite.
Bottom line: our brain and G.I. system are connected, so it is important to take care of both. And, if needed, we recommend you talk with your doctor for ways to manage stress and digestive discomfort.
Take Care of Your Microbiome
A healthy microbiome is key to multiple areas of your health, including your immune system, metabolic activity, fatty acid and amino acid production, lipid metabolism, and more. And, of course, digestive wellness.
Your microbiome is the living dynamic environment that spans throughout your entire body — and even your skin. It is balanced by “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria, but if the balance becomes disturbed, it may lead to the body becoming more open to disease.
That is why it is important to nutritionally support your gut microbiome with the right probiotics and prebiotics from food and dietary supplements. Your body, your gut, and your brain will thank you!