Did you know that there are close to 40 trillion bacteria in your body? Most of these microorganisms can be found in your intestines where they make up the gut microbiome. Your gut flora plays a crucial part in digestion and is connected to other important body functions. Find out more about the role of gut bacteria.
The gut microbiome also referred to as the gut flora, refers to the microbes living in your digestive system. Did you know that your gut flora can weigh more than four pounds? Here is what you need to know about the role of your gut flora and how you can preserve and improve it.
The Role Of The Gut Microbiome
Most of your gut flora can be found in a section of the large intestine known as the cecum. These microbes help you digest certain foods, synthesize vitamins, and prevent some microorganisms from entering your system. Scientists also believe that these microbes play a part in burning fat and maintaining a healthy weight.
Your Gut Flora And Digestion
Stomach enzymes can break down some nutrients during the early stages of the digestion process. However, some foods contain nutrients that can’t be broken down and absorbed by your stomach enzymes.
These nutrients are absorbed later during the digestion process once gut bacteria has broken down these nutrients. This is the case for some of the complex sugars you can find in fruits and vegetables.
Carbs are also broken down and absorbed thanks to gut bacteria. Gut microbes derive energy from carbs, and the slow digestion process of these nutrients help release energy for several hours after a meal.
Your gut flora also plays a role in digesting some dairy products. Your small intestine can produce lactase, an enzyme used to break down the lactose found in milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some bacteria that live in your intestine also produces lactase and helps with this process.
While your stomach enzymes can break down some proteins, longer protein chains are broken down later in the digestion process. This is the case of the proteins that can be found in yogurt and require the presence of gut bacteria to be properly digested.
Your gut flora helps synthesize Vitamins B12 and K. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in supporting nerve and blood cell health. It is also one of the building blocks used to create DNA and allow cells to reproduce.
The gut microbiome can synthesize Vitamin B12 from foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Scientists don’t fully understand what Vitamin K is used for, but it is believed to play a role in preventing heart disease. This vitamin could also prevent calcium from creating plaque, help with blood clotting, and support bone health.
Some forms of Vitamin K are synthesized from leafy greens while other forms are synthesized when you eat cheese, pork, or chicken.
Gut bacteria is believed to create chemicals that send signals to your brain to indicate that you are full. A healthy microbiome could help with portion control.
Even though the connection between gut flora and fat burning isn’t fully understood, studies have found that individuals who have diverse gut flora are less likely to suffer from obesity.
Healthy gut flora also helps you digest fiber. An unhealthy microbiome won’t be able to break down fiber and help your body absorb it. This means you won’t get the benefits of dietary fiber, which include healthy digestion and the sensation of being full for hours after eating.
It is also possible that the unique makeup of your gut flora influences how much fat is stored during the digestion process. Studies have shown that the gut flora of participants had an impact on how much weight they lost while following a specific diet.
Overall, the connection between gut flora health and weight loss needs further studies, but there is strong evidence of the fact that a healthy microbiome plays a part in helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Immune System And Health
Scientists believe that the gut flora communicates with the immune system. Colon cancer has been linked to unhealthy microbiomes and the presence of inflammation in the intestines. Some gut bacteria is believed to trigger an immune response that causes inflammation and increases your risks of developing IBD or certain types of cancer.
Gut flora also acts as a barrier during the digestion process and prevent micro-organisms that could be harmful to pass the intestinal barrier.
How To Maintain A Healthy Gut Microbiome
Everyone has a unique gut flora. There are things you can do to restore your gut microbiome and maintain a balanced and diverse gut flora.
Keep in mind that taking antibiotics can deplete your gut flora. If you recently had to take antibiotics, it is crucial that you follow these steps to restore healthy gut flora.
You can introduce more probiotics in your diet by using a supplement or eating yogurt regularly. Probiotics and live bacteria and yeast. They contribute to balancing your gut flora.
Nutritionists recommend that you eat yogurt every day. A healthy daily serving of yogurt is eight ounces.
Sugar And Carb Intake
Studies show that a diet rich in sugar can change the balance of your gut flora. Sugar is easily digested by your stomach enzymes and foods rich in sugar will probably replace other healthy foods that contain nutrients your gut flora uses for energy.
If your gut bacteria doesn’t get its energy from foods that contain carbs and sugar, they will start eating the lining of your intestines. This will trigger a response of your immune system and inflammation will appear in your intestines.
A diet that contains too much sugar will also cause a bacteria known as Candida Albicans to thrive. These bacteria play an important part in your microbiome, but you need to have a balanced gut flora to be healthy.
If Candida Albicans is allowed to thrive and take over other bacteria, you will probably experience bloating and weight gain in your midsection.
Carbs and sugar are important components of your diet but you need to watch your portions and stay away from foods that contain too much sugar to keep your gut flora balanced.
Whole Grains, Dietary Fiber, And Plant-Based Foods
Your gut flora needs different nutrients to thrive and remain diverse. These nutrients can be found in whole grains, plant-based foods such as leafy greens, and foods rich in dietary fiber.
These nutrients are broken down by your gut bacteria and transformed into energy for the bacteria and your body. These foods contain nutrients that support a wide range of microorganisms. The presence of a varied gut flora helps you digest a wide range of nutrients and help you benefit from a healthy and varied diet.
A diet rich in meat and dairies can cause a bacteria known as bilophila to thrive. This bacteria is necessary for healthy digestion, but it shouldn’t outnumber other microorganisms.
Studies have found that bilophila can take over your intestines even after a day if you eat more meat and dairies than usual.
Sleep, Exercise, And Stress
Your activity level has an impact on your intestinal transit, immune system, and metabolism. The exact connection between exercise and gut flora isn’t fully understood, but there is strong evidence that suggests that exercise helps maintain a diverse and healthy gut flora.
There is a complex relationship between sleep and gut bacteria. Gut flora plays a role in regulating your internal clock. Your endocrine system releases cortisol to regulate your internal clock, and your gut flora releases inflammatory messengers known as cytokines that also influence your internal clock.
Cytokines play an important role in regulating your sleep cycles and are necessary to enter REM sleep. Poor gut flora can cause insomnia, and studies have shown that poor sleep habits can have a negative impact on the health of your gut flora. Not getting enough sleep or having unhealthy sleep habits can make you more likely to develop an inflammatory disease.
Gut flora health is also connected to stress. Did you know that your microbiome creates as much as 90 percent of the serotonin that ends up in your brain? Healthy gut flora will have a positive impact on your mood and stress levels.
On the other hand, experiencing stress means that your endocrine system is releasing adrenaline to prepare for a perceived threat. The presence of adrenaline in your system will trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system.
This isn’t an issue if you experience stress occasionally, but sustained levels of adrenaline can have long-term consequences on your immune system and gut bacteria. Levels of inflammation will always remain high due to your stress response, and a condition such as inflammatory bowel disease will be more likely to appear.
Managing your stress levels will help reduce inflammation and preserve healthy and balanced gut flora.
Your gut flora plays a crucial part during digestion and is connected to your immune system, sleep patterns, mood, and even your weight. Maintaining a healthy and varied microbiome should be a priority for your overall health. This is something you can do by adopting a healthy and well-balanced diet, taking probiotics supplements if needed, and adopting healthy sleep habits.