What is the microbiome?
The microbiome has been discovered only more recently and currently, researchers are delving into as much information as they can get out of our gut. There is a human microbiome project as well, which started in 2008 with constant research and projects on the microbiome.
So, what is the microbiome? The microbiome is bacteria, archaea (single celled microorganisms or prokaryotes), fungi and viruses that live in our gut. It is a major piece of our digestive health, immune system and even mental health. In recent years, the importance of the gut microbiota has come more clearly into the picture as playing an important role in immune-related diseases, and even in regulating predisposition to diseases. (1) An unhealthy microbiome can cause a host of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also play a role in leaky gut syndrome, allergies, asthma, food sensitivities, anxiety, depression, autism, IBS and many more issues that adults and children today have.
MICROBIOME-MENTAL HEALTH CONNECTION
Gut bacteria has been found to produce neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers between brain cells, which can affect mood and behavior. Researchers have also identified that two strains of bacteria, Coprococcus and Dialister, are lacking in the guts of depression patients (3). Additionally, inflammation of the gut lining has been linked to anxiety and depression (7).
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls many functions within the body, including sleep, appetite, temperature, and the most well known factor, mood. Tryptophan is found in many high protein foods, and foods with a high glycemic index increase the availability of this amino acid (4, 5). A deficiency in tryptophan in the diet affects serotonin levels which in turn can affect mood and mental health. Many studies are in development regarding the gut and mental health connection.
“Inflammation of the GI tract places stress on the microbiome through the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. Illness is thought to begin when there is deregulation (of these systems) and can largely be attributed to cytokine release secondary to an exaggerated systemic response to stressors” (7)
Our microbiome begins in the womb. Pregnant mothers can consider supplementing with probiotics for benefits to the baby, and breastfeeding contributes to diversity and gut health as well (6,7). Babies born vaginally have a more diverse microbiome than those born via C-section. It is known that the more diverse microbiota, the stronger the immune system. A diverse maternal microbiome, healthy diet and exposures, and supplementing with probiotics during pregnancy are thought to decrease allergy susceptibility in infants, and after delivery, can possibly help decrease postpartum depression symptoms. While diet and environmental exposures play a role, recent studies have found that supplementing with probiotics BOTH during pregnancy and post-delivery helps to prevent allergic disease, with the exception of immunoglobulin E, IgE allergies (2).
What factors can cause a leaky gut?
If you have heard of leaky gut, you know that our intestinal wall can become permeable and undigested food, bacteria, and toxins among other things can leach into the bloodstream causing an immune attack. A leaky gut or intestinal permeability can be caused by glyphosate, as well as GMOs, processed foods, sugar, starch, prescription medications, antibiotics, a lack of gut diversity, birth control pills, acid blockers, NSAIDs, hand sanitizers, chemicals in personal care products and alcohol use.
What factors can contribute to a healthy GUT?
You can feed the good bugs in your gut with a good diet, including fiber, prebiotic and probiotic foods, diversity in your diet, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans. Eating organic and avoiding GMOs is also very important! Regular exercise, sleep and keeping stress at bay all also help with gut health. Probiotics are a great supplement to consider to add diversity to the gut.
SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER
Probiotics are great for adding diversity to the microbiome. check out these three.
Just Thrive Probiotic – spore based probiotic and antioxidant with 100% survivability, withstands high heat and does not contain dairy, soy or common allergens.
Silver Fern Probiotic – spore forming probiotic, specially formulated to restore your gut health and resolve your stomach issues. DNA verified.
Bio Kult Probiotic – multi-species, multi-strain. Note: contains milk and soy.
TESTS FOR CHECKING DIVERSITY OF MICROBIOME
Check out these new tests which check the diversity of the microbiome and give information based on a stool sample.
(1) Cenit, MC, Matzaraki, V, Tigchelaar, E, Zhernakova, A. Rapidly Expanding Knowledge on the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24882755/
(2) Christine Barthow, Kristin Wickens, Thorsten Stanley, Edwin A. Mitchell, Robyn Maude, Peter Abels, Gordon Purdie,Rinki Murphy, Peter Stone, Janice Kang, Fiona Hood, Judy Rowden, Phillipa Barnes, Penny Fitzharris, Jeffrey Craig,Rebecca F. Slykerman, and Julian Crane. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PiP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891898/
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