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Many times we mention gut feeling, but is there more to the gut than digestion? Our gut has 10 trillion gut microbes, which are too small to be seen by the naked eye. These are bacteria, archaea, protozoa, algae, and fungi. These microbes are 10 times the number of cells in an average human body and the total weight of these microbes is around 1 to 2 kg. Here, it must be mentioned that this microbiome is there not only in your gut, but also exist on skin surfaces, mouth, nasal passages and some organs like the reproductive organs. They have a reciprocal relationship with us, we feed them, and they help manage our metabolism.
There is always a dynamic relationship between humans and the microbiota. Gut microbiota changes in many diseases and research is still on to confirm whether it is a cause or effect. But experts have found out that, either way, we need these organisms for staying healthy and disease free.
Humans have a Gut-Brain Axis and there is a bidirectional relationship between them. This is especially vital in children as the right microbiome facilitates optimal brain growth and functioning. This is also important in adults to a lesser extent.
How does it begin? A newly born baby does not have its microbiome at birth, though a few new research suggest that there may be a few species in the placenta. The newborn baby gets its initial dose from a mother's vaginal passage. The next dose of gut bacteria comes from breast milk, which has as many as 600 different species of bacteria. These bacteria feed on and digest the oligosaccharides in breast milk. Babies who are not breastfed have a different gut microbiome profile or operational taxonomic unit composition. By the age of 3 to 4 years, the gut microbiome, which is different for everyone, is formed and it resembles that of an adult. There are variations which happen with lifestyle choices and antibiotic use, but majorly the microbiome signature is ready by then. The natural progression is that it remains mostly the same till old age, where there are some correlations between frailty and gut microbiota.
Diet is one of the most important influencers. A diet rich in whole foods with plenty of fibre means a healthier gut. On the other hand, decreased diversity of GM is associated with obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and certain malignancies. Other factors which have a significant impact on gut bacteria are -
Dysbiosis or imbalance in the optimal gut microbiome has been linked with diseases like
Here are a few things you can do to boost your beneficial gut organisms
(This article is authored by Dr Anjali Nakra, Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Founder, Path to Health clinic)
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