The Microbiome 101:

The Microbiome 101 by Dulwich Health

The human body is a complex ecosystem. your gut acts as the frontline to your immune system, and is constantly exposed to new microbes. At its core, the microbiome encompasses the diverse community of microbes that inhabit your body, collectively known as the microbiota. These microscopic inhabitants wield significant influence, with their genetic material outnumbering human genes by a staggering ratio of 100:1. Your unique microbiome is shaped by various factors, including diet, lifestyle, geography, and health status, making it as distinct as your fingerprint.

The processes that take place in your gut are closely linked with your central nervous system, brain, and even your mood. All of which can be greatly affected by your microbiome. 

So, What is the Microbiome? 

The collection of microbes that live in and on the human body is known as the microbiota. Microbial genes significantly impact how our bodies operate, with each of us having our own unique microbiome. These microbes are determined by your lifestyle, location, diet, and pretty much everything you touch. 

Delving deeper into the microbiome reveals a bustling metropolis teeming with diverse inhabitants. Bacteria reign supreme, numbering in the trillions and performing a myriad of essential functions, from aiding digestion to synthesizing vital nutrients. However, viruses also play a crucial role, primarily in the form of bacteriophages that facilitate gene transfer among bacteria.

These gut viruses maintain a symbiotic relationship with bacteria, facilitating the transfer of beneficial genes, which can promote the thriving of new bacterial species introduced to the gut via diet or probiotics.

The role of the Microbiome

The microbiome operates as a dynamic organ, exerting profound effects on various physiological processes. It bolsters immune function, educates the body’s defense mechanisms, and influences metabolic rate. Moreover, emerging research highlights its role in mental health, with the gut-brain axis serving as a vital communication pathway between the microbiota and the central nervous system.

A robust microbiome forms the bedrock of your immune system. At birth, your gut is akin to a blank canvas, poised for learning. Exposure to microbes serves as a form of education, instructing the immune system on how to recognize and respond to various organisms. Thus, the immune system acts as a mediator between the body and its microbial inhabitants. While harmful organisms are countered, beneficial ones coexist harmoniously, fostering overall good health.

The composition of the microbiome can vary throughout the intestines, with a concentration in the large intestine. Common bacteria found in the adult gut include Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Bacteroides, Clostridium, Escherichia, Streptococcus, and Ruminococcus. Diet plays a significant role in shaping the microbial composition of the microbiota, which in turn influences the nutritional value of food. While specific bacteria may differ, they often share similar genes.

Humans lack the enzymes needed to break down complex nutrients, but gut bacteria possess this capability, which is crucial for proper digestion. Bacteria enable us to enjoy a diverse diet and access a wide range of micronutrients and phytonutrients.

Supporting your Microbiome

Nurturing a resilient microbiome involves adopting habits that support microbial diversity and balance. A diet rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates fuels microbial diversity, while probiotic supplements offer targeted support for gut health.

The microbiome represents a remarkable frontier in human health, offering insights into the intricate interplay between microbes and their human hosts. By cultivating a healthy microbiome through mindful lifestyle choices and targeted interventions, individuals can unlock the full potential of this symbiotic relationship for enhanced well-being.