One of my favourite subjects is human gastrointestinal microbiology. It is just so easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all.
The average human gut has between 1000 and 1500 different species of bacteria and yeast, with the sum population being trillions. In most cases, they are valuable to the body and have important functions to the body and mind.
Competition within the gut promotes a healthy anti-pathogenic intestinal tract and a sound immune function at all times.
Some of the functions are:
- Production of anti-microbial proteins that protect against pathogenic bacteria.
- Maintaining and restoring intestinal homeostasis.
- Interaction with the immune receptors.
- Metabolizing indigestible components and getting nutrients from ingested food.
Modern science has succeeded in creating artificial cultures of about 40 percent of these essential gut bacterial strains. These cultures are what we know as probiotics. Therefore, probiotics are collections of known important microorganisms that encourage the re-colonization and maintenance of healthy gut populations.
Examples of probiotics are: yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kvass, and raw vinegar. However, not all products with live cultures can be termed as probiotics. For a product to be classified as a probiotics it has to promote good health to the gut, oral cavity, vagina, and skin. Probiotic supplements can also replace some of these mentioned foods as a good source of probiotics.§
These are special plant fibres that nourish good bacteria in your gut. They are indigestible fibres that can go through the gastrointestinal tract to your gut to nourish the good bacteria living in your gut.
Prebiotics sources are: green bananas, jicama, raw leeks, dandelion greens, raw garlic, onion, and raw asparagus.
Prebiotics are usually included in probiotics supplements to provide food to new colonials and promote growth to the already present gut flora.
Synbiotics describe products that combine probiotics and prebiotics to make a super product for your nether regions. Examples are: yogurt, raw honey, kefir, chia seeds, or pickled asparagus. Raw apple cider vinegar is also an example of a synbiotic. This is because it contains pectin which is a prebiotics and good bacteria.
These are the metabolic by-products of the bacteria and other microbiomes in your body. Research has shown that these by-products reduce blood glucose and can as a result be used a treatment for pre-diabetes.
Human Microbiome Research and Its Meaning
Researchers have discovered how personalised human gut microbiomes are. A study conducted in 2013 examined 252 fecal metagenomes of 207 people from Europe and North America. It was discovered that there were 10.3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms and 1051 structural variants. These led to the conclusion that individual specific strains are difficult to replace and that individuals might have special metagenomic genotype, which can be used for personalised diet and drug intake. This interesting finding means that prebiotic, postbiotic, and probiotic treatments must be personalised for maximum benefits.
Prebiotic and postbiotic treatments are essential in the case of necrotizing enterocolitis, which is the leading cause of infant morbidity.
Additionally, research shows that infants fed with formula are likely to have smaller and less productive thymus glands while infants who have been breastfed have healthy thymus glands. This is because of the Bifidobacteria found in a mother’s milk. The probiotics in infant formula are beneficial in that they help in the development of a child’s gut microbiome, while the probiotics in a mother’s milk provide increased immune protection to the child.
Research has shown, that postbiotics could offer treatment to people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Postbiotics could acually offer a better treatment than probiotics for some. A study actually shows that probiotics might cause an inflammatory effect on those with IBD.
Additionally, another study has found that prebiotics can be used to treat gastrointestinal problems. It found that prebiotics in the form of galacto-oligosaccharides enhance stool frequency and consistency in patients suffering from constipation. When combined with a probiotic the resulting synbiotic has an even greater advantage of significantly enhanced stool frequency, consistency, and decreased transit time.
Researchers have also found a relation between post-diet weight gain and gut flora. The study was conducted with obese mice that were put on a diet and then transitioned back to a normal Western rodent diet. The previously obese mice gained weight beyond the pre-diet weight. Therefore, researchers concluded that even after successful dieting the microbiome retained the ‘memory’ of previous obesity.
Gut Health From A Primal Approach
Besides all the personal details and medical interventions discussed, there is one clear message that is delivered: you should not ignore your gut microbiome. It can also treat current digestive issues you currently have, like how to heal leaky gut at home and how to reduce doctor visits. Taking into consideration the number of different issues that have been connected to gut dysbiosis, long-term health cannot be achieved without a healthy gut.
If you are suffering from a chronic condition, you should consider trying out fecal genomic testing to find out which bacterial strains work for you and get optimal synbiotics that are personalised for your gut.
Therefore, I can conclude that a balanced diet with a lot of probiotics and prebiotics will create a great foundation for optimum and resilient health.
Daniel N is the “Fitness Crab”, a Toronto-based fitness coach and yoga instructor. He has been helping his clients improve their health and setting up their home gyms for over a decade and he believes knowing how to eat healthy is more important than exercise, in order to achieve results. He teaches people how to eat healthy as well as achieve perfect form with bodyweight exercise, as well as with machines like rowers and climbers. To contact him, please click here.