Is the Gut Microbiome Our Second Brain?

Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic living organisms are collectively called the human microbiome.

There are trillions of microbes in our gut and on our skin. You could even say that we are made up of bacteria, because there are more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. It is estimated that a 70 kg man contains about 40 trillion bacterial cells and only 30 trillion human cells. 

There are up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome. Each of them has a different role to play. Most of them are beneficial, but there are also those that are harmful to our body.

There is no single set of microbes. Each person has a completely unique network of microbiota, which is initially determined by DNA.

The gut microbiome is another organ that plays a critical role in our health.

How Does the Microbiome Affect Our Body?

Humans have evolved to live with microbes for millions of years.

The human microbiome begins to form at birth – at the time of passage through the birth canal and through the mother’s breast milk. Some studies may suggest that the first contact with microbes occurs as early as the womb. 

The human microbiome is formed until about 2 years of age, and then environmental exposures and diet can change it, making it either healthy or potentially harmful.

In a healthy body, harmful (pathogenic) and beneficial (symbiotic) microbiota coexist without problems.

But if the balance is disrupted due to infectious diseases, a certain diet, prolonged use of antibiotics or other medications that destroy bacteria, dysbiosis occurs, stopping normal interaction. As a result, the body can become more susceptible to disease.

Various studies have shown how the microbiome affects our bodies:

  • Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that our microflora can communicate directly with our brain. There are bacteria that stimulate immune cells in the gut to send alarm signals to our brain about infections, thereby activating immune cells to repair damage.
  • Bifidobacteria in the intestines of babies digest the special sugars in breast milk that are important for the baby’s growth.
  • The microbiome can influence the central nervous system, which controls brain function.

So, there are many different ways in which the gut microbiome can influence key body functions and impact your health.

The gut microbiome affects the body from birth and throughout life, controlling digestion, the immune system, the central nervous system, and other bodily processes.

How Does the Microbiome Affect Our Gut?

The composition of our microbiome is constant throughout life, only its balance changes. And it depends on the food we eat. Some organisms in our gut love vegetables, other organisms love starch and sugar, others may love junk food like fast food and trans fats.

And what happens in our gut is very impressive! The more often you eat healthy foods in your diet, the more bacteria in your gut will love healthy foods.

If, on the contrary, you are often keen on fast food, then accordingly, your gut will be dominated by bacteria that like unhealthy food. In addition, they will crowd out the bacteria that like healthy food and signal your brain to keep feeding them the unhealthy food.

Since the gut is connected to the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, the signals that bacteria can send can influence our behavior in the direction the bacteria want.

Can the Gut Microbiome be Improved?

The good news is that we can choose which bacteria will reign supreme in our gut. Just start following a few basic principles:

  • A varied diet is an indicator of good gut health. Be sure to include legumes, lots of fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and can promote the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria.
  • Fermented foods that contain lactobacilli help reduce harmful bacteria in the gut. Fermented foods include natural yogurt (without coloring or preservatives), sauerkraut, kefir, etc.
  • Add foods rich in prebiotics to your meals. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria. These include garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, apples, and oatmeal (made from whole oat grains that have had little or no heat treatment).
  • Eat foods rich in polyphenols, especially berries (blueberries), spices (cloves), nuts (chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds), flaxseeds, artichoke, red onions, olives, coffee, red wine. Polyphenols are broken down by the microbiome and stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria.
  • Take antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor. Remember that they kill not only the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria, which are so necessary for the body to function properly.
  • If your intestines are not working properly, you have been diagnosed with dysbacteriosis, or you have been taking antibiotics for a long time, you should take supplements with probiotics – live bacteria. Your doctor should prescribe the type and amount you need.

The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms and plays a very important role in your health.

An imbalance of harmful and beneficial microbes in the gut can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as being a cause of anxiety, depression and even neurodegenerative diseases.

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