An Insight into the Gut Microbiome
World Microbiome Day was on the 27th of June, so there’s no better time to discuss the fascinating little microbes that live inside us!
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome describes the variety of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. It is made up of different types of bacteria, archaea, viruses and yeast. These microbes play an important role in our health and wellbeing. They help us to fully digest the food we eat, produce nutrients and help to maintain the health of the cells in our digestive tract.
However, the effects of these microbes spread further than just our digestive tract! The microbiome also plays a role in our body weight, immune system and even our mental health.
Our gut microbiome is affected by a number of different factors including our genetics, environment and any antibiotics we take. However, one thing we can control when it comes to our gut microbiome is the types of food we eat!
How can we look after our gut microbiome?
There are some simple things we can do each day to look after our gut microbiome and thus our overall health. Although it’s still early days when it comes to microbiome research, it is suggested that a more diverse microbiome is better. Since different types of microbes play a different role in our health, having a diverse microbiome helps to cover all bases!
For a healthy microbiome, aim to eat plenty of fibre-rich foods, include a variety of different types of plant foods and drink plenty of water.
- Include plenty of oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, fruit and vegetables to help you meet your fibre needs
- Aim for 30 different plant foods every week to maintain and maximise your gut health (plant foods are not just fruit and vegetables, they also include nuts, seeds, legumes and grains!)
- Eat plenty of pre and probiotic foods such as onion, garlic, kefir, yoghurt and kombucha
- Drink a minimum of 2L of water everyday
N.B: If you are increasing your fibre intake, make sure to do so slowly and drink plenty of water throughout the process to prevent any unpleasant gastro-intestinal symptoms.
Why is research into the gut microbiome so important?
The gut microbiome is an exciting area of research which has progressed due to recent advances in the technology available. However, we currently know very little about the links between our gut microbiome and the development and prevention of disease.
In recent years, scientists have gained a better understanding of the structure of the microbiome and the types microbes which are present. We also know that when the balance between these microbes is lost, it can result in a number of diseases.
The next step in microbiome research is to gain a deeper understanding of how these microbes interact with us, the host. This will allow us to understand the specific role they play in the development and prevention of disease. In the future there is the potential to maintain health and treat disease through modifying the microbiome itself.
Stay tuned for what lies ahead in this upcoming field of research!
Written by Ellie Thompson for The Gut Foundation