The Microbiome

The bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites which live in our gut and on our skin are called our microbiome. A natural ecosystem totally cultivated by you. At least 90 trillion of them. That is 1,500 times more humans than there are on the planet, all squashed into your belly. What is interesting is that we only have 10 trillion human cells in our bodies, which means by cell count we are only 10% human! The job of the microbiome is to help breakdown foodstuffs for us and also to cleanse and maintain the integrity of the gut wall.

Our gut stretches from our mouth to our anus and comprises of our oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum. Our stomach empties into our small intestine which, in a healthy gut, should be relatively sterile with few bacteria and this is where the majority of our digestion takes place. Left over, undigested foodstuffs, pass from our small intestine into our large intestine, and this is where our friendly bacteria live, fermenting undigested fibre, breaking it down into short chain fatty acids which are absorbed and are also used to fuel our cells.

The importance of a healthy gut

Our gut doesn’t just digest our foods, it has a huge impact on practically every system in our body. Of importance to note is 1) our immune system, 2) our nervous system and 3) our endocrine system.

  • We now know that 80% of our immune cells are in our gut, which makes sense as this in the interface between potential toxins from the outside world passing through into our bodies.
  • The nervous system in our gut is called the enteric nervous system and a vast number of neurons are contained here, similar to the number of neurons in the spinal cord and far more than in any other peripheral organ. The nervous system is our bodies communication system and many of our neurotransmitters are made in our gut.
  • The gastrointestinal tract is the largest endocrine organ in the body producing a large number of our hormones, collectively called the enteric endocrine system.

So, if our gut is unhealthy then our immune system, nervous system and endocrine system will all be compromised. Keeping our gut in tip top condition is essential for the overall health of our body and brain.

The damage has been done

Sadly, as a result of toxins in our modern-day society, together with stressful and sedentary lifestyles and a poor diet, we have managed to damage our microbiome and now we have only 50% the variety of good microbes when compared to 70 years ago. A damaged microbiome results in a damaged gut, consequently we are now experiencing an exponential increase in 21st century chronic conditions such as obesity, anxiety, diabetes, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, allergies, skin conditions, Parkinson’s, brain fog, sleep issues, hot flushes, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. These chronic conditions are all on the rise and are now being called NCDs (non-contagious diseases) and are all being linked to damage to our microbiome.

 

How to heal

If you are suffering from any of these NCDs it is possibly because your microbiome has become damaged and needs rebalancing with the right nutrition. Enhancing your gut health can improve your immune system, sleep, menopausal symptoms and energy levels, whilst reducing body fat, joint pain and digestive issues.

Working in the field of mental and physical health for 30 years, my career has encompassed the emotional state of our brains, how this is intricately linked to the physical health of our bodies and how targeted nutrition to heal the gut can address many of the health concerns facing society today. For me, it is the final piece in the jigsaw when it comes to repairing our health both mentally and physically.

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