Your body contains trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some keep you healthy and some, when they increase in number, can cause health problems. Collectively, they are called the microbiome. The condition of your microbiome is extremely important for maintaining healthy weight, heart function, immune system and other health aspects.
In order to understand why the microbiome is important for your health, you must first understand what is it.
What is the Microbiome and Where is it Located?
The microbiome is found on your skin and inside your intestines. You have probably heard that the human body contains more bacteria cells than “human” cells, right? Pretty amazing! Among these trillions of cells there are many types of bacteria and each plays a special role. Generally, a balanced diversity of bacteria in your microbiome can help the different parts of your body function well.
Following are some of the areas that affected by the microbiome:
Body Fat – Weight
An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy bacteria in the microbiomes is called “gut dysbiosis”. This contributes to an increase in body fat and weight gain. This is generally not due to genetics but can be caused by an unhealthy diet.
If you’re suffering from body weight problems, probiotics can potentially help you by creating a more balanced microbiome. Probiotics provide more of the good bacteria that live in your body and defend it against infectious diseases. A treatment with probiotic supplements or foods that are rich in probiotics can aid in digestion, which also promotes healthy body weight.
Two problems that are directly related to gut health are inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. The abdominal pain, cramps and bloating that people often experience as initial signs of these diseases are due to dysbiosis. An unhealthy microbiome can produce chemicals and gas that cause intestinal discomfort.
Changing your diet, especially with the addition of probiotics, can help with intestinal problems. Two forms of bacteria in the microbiome –Lactobacilliand Bifidobacteria - are found in yoghurt and help seal the gaps between cells in the intestines. This may help to improve symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. Moreover, this also prevents harmful bacteria from getting stuck in the walls of the intestines where they can cause problems.
A healthy microbiome helps to balance levels of triglycerides and good HDL cholesterol. When the microbiome becomes imbalanced, the body may produce an organic compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which contributes to symptoms of heart disease. TMAO contributes to blockages in the arteries that can potentially lead to a stroke.
Certain nutrients, such as those in red meat, can promote the growth of bacteria that convert L-carnitine and choline into TMAO. Probiotics rich in Lactobacilli can help reduce the body’s cholesterol level and minimize the negative bacteria in the gut.
Serotonin, an antidepressant neurotransmitter that helps with brain function, is also found in the gut. Our gut is connected through a collection of nerves to the brain. So, when you use probiotics to improve your gut microbiome, your brain also receives the benefits!
Understanding how the microbiome affects overall health is very important. If you feel that your body has not been functioning well lately, you may need to make some healthy changes to your diet. As always, before attempting a diet or any treatment with probiotics or other dietary supplements, please consult with your doctor.