10.20.20 Lesson #8 Gut Microbiome
Let’s talk about our gastrointestinal microbiome! While the majority of microbes reside in our large intestine, there are several strains that help us out in our stomach and a few others in our small intestines. These are not made of just bacteria, but also viruses, archaea, fungi, eukaryotic cells, and other microorganisms. It is really our microbiome that makes us unique individuals - while 99.9% of our genes are the same as everyone else’s, our microbiome can vary 80-90% from person to person! How can that be? Because we have about 22,000 different genes, but our microbiome contains up to 3.3 million genes! This can weigh from 1.3 to almost 4lbs. It is important to note that our gut is not the only place microorganisms hang out. They are also in our mouth and airways, in our urogenital tract, and on our skin.
Why are we concerned about this hodgepodge of teenie tiny organisms that we never will see? Research is discovering many ways in which these colonies impact our health, trigger disease, and ultimately determine whether we live or die, or at least the quality of life we have until then! So that’s kind of a big deal! Our metabolism and immune function seem to be two of the closest things tied to our gut microbiome. An altered gut microbiome is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is linked to type I and II diabetes, autoimmune disorders, IBS, allergies, asthma, and obesity to name a few!
Learning about our gut microbiome is important in nutrition as what we eat is one of the biggest factors in the health and balance of our microbiome. Other factors are medications, stress, sleep, what stage of life we are in, and other diseases. The moment we enter the world as a newborn baby is when this unique colony starts to develop. Factors such as how we are born, what we are fed, if there are pets or animals, and the family we come in contact with all influence what set of microorganisms we end up with.
Our experience through life shapes our microbiome and often by the time we are adults or even teenagers, we’ve gone through enough stress, antibiotics, or disrupted sleep to cause some serious imbalances. This can show up in digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, bad breath, diarrhea, or constipation. Also as weight gain, brain fog, hormone imbalances, allergies, asthma, and a host of other minor to major symptoms. Are you convinced yet that you should improve the conditions and health of these special little guys that coexist with us!?
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Gail A.M. Cresci PhD, RDN, CNSC, Kristin Izzo MS, RDN, CNSC, in Adult Short Bowel Syndrome, 2019
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