It has been a couple of years since I last wrote about gut flora, and its role in health and well-being.
During that time, gut flora, or gut microbiota/the mircobiome as it is termed in the scientific community, has become a hot topic, and there have been a glut of research studies conducted in the field.
The cynic in me predicts that this is likely due to the potentially huge profits to be made from getting probiotics licensed as pharmaceuticals, rather than simply health supplements, but regardless of motivations, I think that this shift within the medical research can only be viewed as a good thing.
Though big pharma may well be the ultimate financial beneficiaries from all this new research, the good news is that while the internet is still free we can gain access to this research and use it to benefit our own health, the only wealth that really matters!
Though most people are aware of the existence of “good bacteria”, most of us are unaware of just how important they are to our very existence, let alone health. In this series of articles we’re going to look at exactly what gut flora are, and why they are so important to not only our physical health, but also our mental well-being.
Gut Flora 101:
Though we are largely unaware of the fact, every surface of our bodies are home to vast communities of microbes. They live on your skin, on your hair, in your mouth, nose, ears, everywhere. The biggest population of microbes however, resides in your gastrointestinal tract, with the majority of these living in the distal gut. Believe it or not, there are thought to be up to 100 trillion microbes residing in your gut – That’s 10 times as many bacteria as there are cells in your body! (Gill et al, 2006)
As sentient beings, we have come to think of ourselves as individual entities, existing in the world, but somehow separate from it. This view is questionable however, and our relationship with our gut flora is a clear example of where the boundaries between us and “not us” are very blurry.
The fact is that we exist in a symbiotic relationship with these microbes. Just as they could not survive without us as a habitat to live in, we could not survive without them.
Below are some of the vital roles our gut microbiota play in our physiology:
Image taken from Grenham et al 2011
In the series of upcoming articles I will be looking at the many roles of these microbes, and investigating how a dysbiosis of your gut flora (i.e. having the wrong types of microbiota) can affect not only your health, but even your behaviour and personality!
I will then focus on ways to work with your invisible internal comrades through a combination of evidence based healthy eating and living in order to help in order to forge optimal health for both them and you.