The Gut Microbiome: The Hidden World Within You
Jul 07, 2023
The gut microbiome, often described as a "forgotten organ", has been the subject of intensive scientific research over recent years, transforming our understanding of human health and disease. This microbial community, predominantly of bacteria, has profound implications for our well-being, influencing everything from digestion to mental health.
This ‘hidden world’ is, as its description describes, a plethora of life with its own ecosystem that depends on us as much as we depend on it. Until recently, we knew very little about it, but as science delves deeper, it becomes more clear just how important this inner world is to our outer world and experience.
At JUVIA, we are fascinated with the wider implications of gut health. We believe that if we get our guts in good order then the rest of our health will follow suit. That’s why we promote our unique plant-based single-ingredient formula as the go-to solution for those that suffer from a sensitive tummy when they eat the foods they enjoy.
Let’s investigate your hidden world a little more closely.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract. This diverse community is unique to each individual and forms a complex ecosystem.
A Detailed Breakdown of What Makes up the Gut Microbiome
According to the Human Microbiome Project, the human body houses 10 times more microbial cells than human cells, with the gut microbiome being the densest and most diverse microbial community. This number is refuted because it is difficult to measure accurately. Some scientists believe they are equal to our own in number, but whatever the number is, we know that it is vast and significantly impacts the way our body functions.
The microbiome is not a static entity; it evolves throughout our lives, influenced by factors like diet, lifestyle, environment, and medication use. The diversity and balance of the gut microbiome are key to its function and, consequently, our health. Small changes over periods of time can make a big difference and literally everything we eat has an impact.
In theory, this should affect the way we think about our diet and overall health - it is not just about calories.
Gut Microbiome Composition: A Journey Down the Digestive Tract
Quick takeaway: The gastrointestinal tract is not a single organ. It refers to a variety of organs throughout our digestive tract, including the mouth, throat, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus. Each area has its own microbiome, and together they form the wider gut microbiome. The microbiome as a whole has a wide influence on your overall health, so it is imperative that you take good care of it.
The gut microbiome varies substantially along the digestive tract. The small intestine, with its highly acidic environment and rapid transit time, has fewer bacteria compared to the large intestine.
The large intestine, or colon, harbours the highest microbial density in the body, with bacteria predominantly from the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla. These microbes play crucial roles in fermenting indigestible dietary fibres into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate. These SCFAs nourish colon cells and regulate various physiological processes that are essential for human health.
The rectal cavity microbiota, similar to the colon, is predominantly anaerobic. The rectal cavity is the passage where we excrete waste from, so it stands to reason that a high volume of bacteria can be found there. The type, volume and effect of this will of course depend on your diet. Studies suggest a correlation between rectal microbiome alterations and various conditions, including colorectal cancer.
The Complexity of the Gut Microbiome and Its Implications
Quick takeaway: The microbiome is connected to and influences several factors related to human function and health. This connection is referred to as the gut axis. Research is being undertaken with respect to each axis, for example, the gut-brain axis looks at the implications of gut health on mental and emotional health. Up to 90% of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, is produced in the gut.
The gut microbiome's complexity extends beyond its varied composition. It engages in a symbiotic relationship with the host, playing vital roles in nutrition, immune system development, and metabolism. In fact, 70% of our immune system is located in the gut, highlighting its critical role in health.
The gut microbiome influences several 'axes'. The gut-brain axis, a bi-directional communication network between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, has garnered attention, with research linking gut microbiota alterations to neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Similarly, the gut-liver, gut-lung, and gut-skin axes demonstrate how gut health can impact other organ systems. Disruptions in these axes are associated with conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, asthma, and skin disorders like atopic dermatitis.
Maintaining a balanced gut microbiome is vital for good health. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut microbiota, is associated with various conditions, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the gut microbiome influences processes that are often overlooked, such as drug metabolism and circadian rhythm regulation.
Emerging research also indicates the potential of microbiome-based therapies. These include fecal microbiota transplants, and the use of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics to treat diseases and improve overall health.
JUVIA is really beneficial to balancing your gut because it breaks down fermentable carbohydrates before they reach your gut. The most visible benefits are that you will not get the upset and disturbance that usually follows from eating something that you normally react to. The other advantage is that it deprives the unfriendly bacteria of its food source, so they reduce in number, providing greater balance throughout.
Improving Gut Health: Solutions, Benefits, and Limitations
Before looking to improve your gut health, it’s best to be certain of the cause of any issue. Be sure to speak to a medical professional. Depending on the issue, your medical professional may ask you to keep a food journal. We cover how to do this, along with other steps, in our guide to isolating gut issues.
Improving gut health primarily involves promoting a diverse and balanced microbiome. Diet plays a crucial role. A high-fibre diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, helps nourish beneficial gut bacteria, promoting diversity. Fermented foods, such as yoghurt and kimchi, naturally contain probiotics that can boost gut health.
Probiotic supplements, which provide live beneficial bacteria, and prebiotics, which feed these bacteria, are widely used for gut health. Studies show benefits in conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. However, their effects can be strain-specific and temporary, ceasing once the supplementation stops. Also, if your diet is healthy and varied, there is no real need for them, particularly if you are budget sensitive.
Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), transferring faecal bacteria from a healthy donor to a recipient, has shown promise in treating Clostridium difficile infection, a condition linked to severe gut dysbiosis. More research is needed to understand its potential in treating other conditions.
While these interventions show promise, they come with limitations. The gut microbiome is highly individualised, and influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Thus, a "one-size-fits-all" approach to improving gut health may not be effective. It is far more beneficial to implement healthy habits rather than to try and introduce new strains without knowing your individualised composition.
Furthermore, while research on the gut microbiome is growing, our understanding is still limited. More research is needed to fully understand the intricacies of the gut microbiome and the effects of various interventions.
Does Alcohol Affect the Gut Microbiome?
The short answer is yes. Studies have shown that alcohol promotes dysbiosis (imbalance) and overgrowth of gut bacteria. This leads to the production of endotoxins and triggers an inflammatory response in your body.
Impact of the Gut Microbiome on Mental Health
Studies have identified a bidirectional influence between the gut and mental health. This means that each part influences the other. In other words, if your gut health is poor, it can directly impact your mental health. Part of the reason for this is that serotonin, your happy hormone, is primarily produced in your gut (up to 90%). At the same time, if your mental health is poor, this too can impact your gut. This is because your body’s response to stress is the release of a hormone called cortisol, which disrupts your gut biome and impedes the absorption of vital nutrients. Cortisol also increases gut permeability, which means toxins enter your bloodstream and cause further inflammation.
Further Scientific Areas of Interest
Our understanding of the gut microbiome continues to evolve, which has prompted scientific interest in numerous areas of research. One area is the impact of the gut microbiome on drug response. It has been established that gut bacteria can metabolize drugs, potentially influencing their effectiveness and safety.
Considering individuals' gut microbiomes, personalised medicine approaches could be the future strategy for optimizing drug therapies.
Another area is the potential use of the gut microbiome as a diagnostic tool. Given its associations with various diseases, analyzing the gut microbiome could provide valuable information for disease diagnosis and prognosis. This is exciting because it may provide very clear and potentially quicker insight into potential conditions that are difficult to identify and diagnose.
Finally, the concept of the 'microbiome-gut-brain axis' has opened new avenues for treating neurological disorders. Preclinical studies suggest that manipulating the gut microbiome could improve mental health outcomes, but more research is needed to translate these findings into a reliable and repeatable clinical practice.
The gut microbiome, an intricate ecosystem within our bodies, has profound implications for our health. From digestion to immune function, mental health, and even the efficacy of medications, these microscopic allies influence various aspects of our well-being. Nurturing a balanced and diverse gut microbiome through diet and lifestyle modifications, and potentially through targeted can contribute to improved health outcomes. However, our understanding of this complex system remains incomplete, warranting further research to unlock its full potential.
In the meantime, JUVIA has shown strong progress insofar as helping people that suffer from a sensitive tummy. Our current users report various health benefits that we are currently investigating with great enthusiasm. Being a product with a single-plant-based ingredient that helps your gut rebalance itself naturally, makes JUVIA safe and effective.
If you haven’t tried JUVIA yet, why not give it a go? Your gut will thank you for it.