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Probiotics and the Human Microbiome

Probiotics and the Human Microbiome

Saturday 2nd June 2018
Jonny Carter

There are more microorganisms in our body than there are cells. This collection of microorganisms is called our microbiome and contains, bacteria, fungi and viruses. It is also known as our gut flora.

Some of these bacteria aren't great and can cause anything from the common cold to anthrax, however many are on our side and helpful to the body. They help the body perform various tasks, including: digesting food, manufacturing vital nutrients, improving our metabolism, and fighting off the bad bacteria.

Our microbiome is very important to us and when it gets damaged things don't function as they should. Digestive issues can occur causing constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach cramps. We struggle to lose weight and we frequently catch colds. The immune system can start attacking our own organs in which are known as autoimmune conditions. Skin health can be affected causing blotchy skin. The brain is even affected possibly leading to anxiety and depression.

Each one of us has a unique combination of different microorganisms, but this is not fixed and can change. Factors such as the food we eat, the chemicals and stress we are exposed to can affect our gut flora.

Already mentioned some microbes are more useful than others. Some are quite opportunistic and will move into a space when a helpful species is reduced. In this case when the bad microorganisms gain the upper hand is when health is impaired. Various things effect our microbiome including a high processed food diet, this will be talked about in next weeks blog.

When our gut flora is imbalanced it is called dysbiosis and this is when probiotic supplementation is often important. The benefits off taking a good probiotic are vast, ranging from better digestion, clearer skin, better weight control, a stronger immune system to a better mental state.

Mainstream medicine has been slightly slow to embrace the benefits of probiotics. The main reason is that scientific studies on the human microbiome and probiotics are still in their infancy and therefore the role of different species and strains is still trying to be understood. Although various scientific studies have been completed and benefits have been found, especially to digestive issue like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

One point should be made clear. Probiotics aren't a magic bullet to cure all health problems. When the gut is in poor health, often a combination of dietary, lifestyle and a supplementation program is needed. However, there is little question that probiotics play a vital role in gut healing and therefore in our overall health.

My next blog will talk about the factors that effect the gut microbiome and how to choose a good probiotic. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me here