Our gut health may reveal more than our genes. You probably classify yourself as a human being, but when you look at the number of cells in your body, it seems that most of us are made up of microbes. So we are all microbes 🙂 Trillions of microbes live in your body. Scientists studying microbial ecosystems, or microbiomes, show that these tiny grazers covertly control our mood, appetite and immune response, helping us metabolize and digest food.
“I can learn more about a person’s health by looking at a detailed scan of their microbes rather than examining their genes,” says Professor Tim Spector, who heads the microbiome research unit at King’s College in London. Spector says we humans are 99.7% genetically identical, but “we share 20-30% of that with our germs. “This project aims to map the microbiome of as many people as possible, thereby revealing the relationship between our biomes and our health.
Currently , knowledge of the microbiome lags a decade behind human genetic research, Spector said. So far, they’re just at the beginning of identifying all the microbes and seeing what they do and how they work together. But they did identify certain groups of microbes that benefit many people. Those with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and high blood pressure are “lack of these beneficial bacteria that act as protection in other people,” Spector says.
There are also strong links between mental health and gut health. All factors associated with depression are controlled by the gut biome: inflammation, brain plasticity, immune activation and gene expression in the brain. The gut biome determines the level of neurotransmitters in the brain and plays an important role in the functioning of the stress response system.
It is possible to associate even the effects of foods and drugs in our body (from antidepressants to cancer chemotherapy drugs) with the microbes in our body. Experts recommend that anyone undergoing chemotherapy undergo microbiome testing and, if necessary, use probiotic supplements that have proven effective.
“It turns out that in many cases microbes work,” Spector says. “If your child has diarrhea, giving probiotics significantly speeds up the recovery process.” Your body’s ways of signaling problems with your gut flora are different. In addition to irritable bowel syndrome, Spector cites: “Constipation, restricted diet, feeling bloated. On average, if you’re overweight, in poor health, and have a lot of allergies, your gut isn’t in good health.”
To improve gut health, Spector’s advice is to double your daily fiber intake, eat whole foods like beans and grains, and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut contain lots of beneficial bacteria. Most importantly, people with the healthiest guts have been found to eat around 30 different plant foods each week.
Spector thinks that microbe tests will become routine in the future. There are already companies that do microbiome testing for a fee . According to Spector, “prices will go down as the number of these companies increases. If the government takes over this job, the test prices will be at the same level as blood tests and it will be much more useful. This way, we can test your gut microbes and look at our database of 10,000 people and tell you whether you should be eating rice or potatoes.”
Almost 6,000 people have participated in the project that Spector has carried out so far. As the numbers increase, the signs of diseases in the intestines or the effects of certain diets will be seen more clearly.
- Bacteria: Around 100 trillion bacteria live in your gut, some of which are bad, but most of them are beneficial for our mental and physical health.
- Fungi: Although gut-dwelling fungi such as Candida albicans account for 1% of the entire microbiome, they live in symbiosis with bacteria and other microbes.
- Yeasts: Yeasts, unicellular fungi, Candida albicans is actually a yeast. Too many are referred to as both yeast and fungal infections.
- Protozoa: These single-celled organisms feed on organic matter. Many are harmless, some potentially beneficial, and some cause diarrhea.
- Archaea: These live in the human gut and aid complex processes by playing an important role in breaking down complex sugars.