World Microbiome Day: Why Is This Day Suddenly So Exciting?
What is the big deal with the human microbiome and observing World Microbiome Day? If you care for your health, you have to pay attention. There are a number of studies and research mentioning the health benefits of a healthy microbiome. Aside from helping food digestion, immune regulation, bacterial protection and vitamin production, the benefits of a healthy microbiome’s list grow every day.
Microbiome is divided into two Greek words; micro, meaning small, and bios, meaning life. In a nutshell, it is a mini world of microorganisms in a certain habitat, in this case, the gut. It is an evolved word that started ambiguously and slowly growing popular as more evidence emerges on the advantages of a good microbiome. Your microbiome consists of genetic material and a whole lot of microorganisms living inside our gut.
The Human Microbiome
The human microbiome is very complicated. A person is born with a unique microbiome somewhat similar to their mother’s. Once born, the birth environment amends the initial microbiome as the baby loses this first level of microbiome. These studies consensus say that there is a profound difference in an infant’s microbiome depending on the way they were brought to the world. The birth process affects the microbiome profile due to the antibiotics and drugs used for the procedure. This reinforces that whatever goes in the body affect gut health.
Each microbiome is unique and anchored in their DNA. Everything that ensues from birth strengthens or weakens the microbiome; this includes the prescription given at the time of birth to breastfeeding. Bacteria in the birth canal attach to the baby and give the infant his latest microbiome.
Benefits of a healthy microbiome
What is the fuss with the microbiome? For starters, a good microbiome is linked to good digestion and a strong immune function. The gut is where bacteria and the immune system congregate. A large part of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome is a check list of all environmental experiences your body has undergone. It consists of fungi, bacteria, viruses and even archaea, otherwise known as microbes or microorganisms, that are housed within our body. These microbes and bacterial cells play different parts in keeping and maintaining a healthy body.
Immunity – Immunity is the capacity of the body to assist and overcome sickness. A healthy gut strengthens immunity. This is according to the myriad of studies conducted on this subject. Immunity is categorised into one that we are born with (innate immunity) and one that we develop from (adaptive and artificial). The newborns depend heavily on their innate immune system during early life. The microbiome contributes to the development of immunity in newborns.
As the baby grows, it normally receives vaccines (artificial) and is exposed to substances, illnesses and infection that arouses a response (adaptive). Vaccines are weaker versions of a disease that triggers an immune response, so the body can familiarise itself with the pathogen and replicate the same approach as the way it fought off the virus contained in the vaccine.
Immunity also plays a role in warding off hereditary diseases as late as possible when a person’s microbiome and gut health are in excellent condition.
Gut-brain, stress and anxiety – Even a young child, when something is bothering them, they let the adults know by telling them their tummy hurts. Our microbiome influences how much stress and anxiety we can handle. Consequently, frequent exposure to stress can change the structure of the microbiome. This is a long-standing belief that has coined such phrases as gut-feeling, gut-wrenching, trust your gut, and other phrases that pertain to the stomach – brain connection.
Nothing spoils a good mood as much as an upset stomach. Gastrointestinal difficulties and disorders can be the cause or the effect of stress. Stress is an emotional response to an outside trigger. When one already has this difficulty, stress can make it even worse. Stress increases the chance of overeating and agitated digestion that can worsen a digestive condition. Stress can also trigger the loss of appetite and increase in fluid release in the gut that may lead to ulcers.
Anxiety is more persistent than stress. It is present even without any stress or external trigger present. A microbial imbalance is often present in people with anxiety and those suffering from digestive diseases and other disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastrointestinal ulcer, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
These microbes take the cake in the success of life as they have been here far longer than we have. And now that the world is thrown into chaos by a virus, the spotlight is directed once more proving the adage small but terrible.
Ageing and longevity – The microbiome spells that can determine our longevity. It is at its peak when it has diverse microorganisms and the beneficial bacteria are at an advantage. Its microbial structure affects the body positively or negatively conditional on genetic attributes, diet and lifestyle.
The adult microbiome is heavily dictated by the early life influences. But it is never too late to aim for a healthy diverse microbiome. As we get older, the microbiome also grows and develops and wavers along with our interaction with our surroundings. After the first three years of interaction, the microbiome becomes somewhat stable mimicking that of an adult’s. This is when the diet modifies the microbiome constitution. Of course, lifestyle options, physical activity, medication and such factors influence the microbiome as well. This causes it to alter and weaken, especially when devoid of diversity it needs.
How to get a healthy microbiome
From birth, the microbiome changes according to what gets inside the body. Food, drinks, and possibly even emotions while in the womb shape the microbiome and gut health. With the microbiome affecting everything from digestion to immunity, diseases and ultimately, longevity, it’s high time to pay more attention to getting a healthy microbiome. Here are a few things to help it along:
- Consume more fruits and vegetables
- Adequate sleep
- Exercise and physical activity
- Prebiotic fibres
- Probiotics and fermented foods
These are easy enough to remember as it is the basics for good health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut. Some people take probiotic supplements, others take the natural way and eat more fermented food. Probiotics, some research says, prevent intestinal problems and support a healthy gut. Prebiotics on the other hand feed and provide energy to the microbiota already present in your gut and also support probiotic functions.
- Alcohol indulgence
- Sugars and artificial sweeteners
- Diets rich in processed foods
- Antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
- Harsh disinfectants and cleaning products
Going natural and avoiding excessive indulgence has always been key to optimal health. Frequent and unmerited use of antibiotics results in the body developing a resistance that damages the gut microbiota. These things not only affect gut health and microbiome but also immunity and wellbeing. Attaining and maintaining the right balance of microorganisms in the body is key to a healthy microbiome.
After all this time, there are still many dark areas to discover on the functions of the microbiome. So far, with what is already known, it is exciting finding out just how powerful the microbiome is – and unraveling its secrets.
“Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering – an image of death.” ~ Buddha
To find out more about World Microbiome Day check out their website: https://worldmicrobiomeday.com