What is the microbiome?

Our gut bacteria is increasingly being recognised as key to health. The more we understand about our microbiome, the more we can work towards manipulating our health.

Our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, houses up to 1000 distant bacterial species. The activity of these microbes control some of our body’s vital processes, ranging from our mood, immune defences, and our metabolism. Microbiota metabolic functions are mainly based on the fermentation of available substrates that have escaped digestion in the upper GI tract.

An ever-increasing body of evidence, with The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) leading the way, implicates the GI microbiome in defining health and disease.

Our microbiota starts to be formed in the womb. The colonisation and development of gut microbiota is highly variable, depending on factors such as delivery mode, and modality of feeding during the first few months (i.e. breastfeeding/ and or formula-feeding) which impact the diversity, and composition of the gut microbial community.
As we age we collect microbes from everything and everyone we come in contact with. Harmful ‘pathogenic bacteria’ can invade the body and cause infection, whilst others enter our bodies and reside harmoniously with our established microflora. Friendly ‘commensal bacteria’ are crucial on keeping the gut healthy.

Whilst antibiotics have revolutionised our ability to combat infections, their widespread use had led to a dramatic rise in the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant microbes. Whilst antibiotics work to eliminate pathogens they also impact our native microbial community, leading to an unintentional state of dysbiosis, depleting species of commensal bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, a bacteria critical for immune development. Their loss has been associated with the development of allergic disease. In addition, antibiotics lead to a downregulated expression of genes involved in the innate immune defence.

Nutritional Manipulation

Pro, pre- or synbiotics are known to alter the gut microbiota, however it is important to note supplementing with pre, pro- or synbiotics may demonstrate efficacy in one person whilst exhibiting a different effect in another.

Probiotics;

Probiotics are live organisms that contain live bacteria which add to and strengthen the existing gut microbiota, for example lactobacilli in live yoghurt. Probiotics are known to inhibit pathogen growth, improve mucosal barrier function, increase IgA production and downregulate proinflammatory cytokine secretion.

Food sources include;

  • Kefir
  • Yoghurt (plain, no added sugar, active cultures)
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sourdough bread
  • Silken tofu or tempeh
  • Organic miso paste
  • Kombucha
  • Pickled vegetables (raw)
  • Spirulina (contains also vegan protein), chlorella and blue algae
  • Bone Broth

Prebiotics

Unlike probitoics, prebiotics are not live preparations, but instead are food ingredients that may be fermented but not digested. The fermentation can benefit the host by stimulating growth and activity in intestinal microbial species. Studies show they benefit the host by improving glucose tolerance and inflammation, stimulate the growth and activity of colon bacteria, have components that are resistant to gut acidity, and stimulate growth of beneficial microbial species

Food sources include;

  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Raw honey
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Kefir
  • Leeks
  • Peas
  • Sprouted legumes
  • Radicchio

Synbiotics

Synbitoics refers to the processes of using pre- and pro- biotics simultaneously.

Food sources include;

  • Kefir
  • Kombucha

If supplementing opt for a multi-strain prebiotic. Udo’s Choice Super 8 Hi-Count contains specific strains chosen for their value to upper bowel health and have been formulated to the appropriate viable count. Consume one capsule per day on a full stomach to maintain healthy intestinal flora. Refrigeration ensures maximum potency and stability.