The microbiome. Probiotics. Gut health. You have probably seen or heard these terms a lot recently. The microbiome is a hot topic in nutrition, and for good reason. We are learning more each day about its massive impact on digestion, wellness, mental health, chronic disease risk, and more… and it has changed the way we think about health.
The microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, most of which live in your digestive tract, or gut (1,10). This is an extensive group of species – in fact, the genome of the microbiome has over 100 times the number of genes compared to the human genome (2). Though we think of bacteria as being bad or to be avoided, the bacteria in the microbiome are most often important residents in your body that allow for proper – even optimal – functioning.
Bacteria have many essential functions, including playing a role in immunity, vitamin synthesis, digestion, behavior, and more. In fact, the microbiome is so vast and plays such an important role in the human body that it is often considered to be like an additional organ. For example, the bacteria in the microbiome can synthesize vitamins K and B12 on their own, contributing to your body’s essential vitamin needs. Bacteria also break down fiber that the human body cannot otherwise digest, and in turn produce short chain fatty acids that act as a nutrient for the digestive tract itself while also preventing chronic diseases (3).
Just like any other organ, it is imperative for the microbiome to exist in the right balance for optimal health. When viruses, antibiotics, extreme diets, or environmental factors shift the balance of the microbiome it can throw off the equilibrium and reactions within the body, which can have serious health implications. The microbiome has been implicated in the development of multiple diseases including autism (4), asthma (5), diabetes (14,17), cardiovascular disease (6), obesity (11,13), irritable bowel syndrome (7, 8), eczema (9), allergies (9), and more.
Now that you know the power the microbiome has on human health, you may want to know: how can I achieve a perfect microbiome? Unfortunately, this is a question we don’t have the answer to. What we do know, is that there is a perfect microbiome for you. In other words, the microbiome is so personalized and individual that we cannot currently make sweeping recommendations that work for everyone – it is all about how to work with your own unique microbiome profile to find optimal balance.
We do know that the microbiome can and does change. The microbiome is first established prenatally and is refined during birth (16) and changes immensely over the first year or life (15). The microbiome has been shown to be altered with changes in diet, meaning we can use targeted personalized nutrition to impact the unique makeup of the bacteria in your gut to ultimately improve your health (12). Integrative Phenomics is using research-based and progressive scientific strategies to identify how we can target your specific microbiome through integrated nutrition and lifestyle recommendations and modifications.
Keep coming back to learn more about nutrition, the microbiome, and how Integrative Phenomics is discovering the forefront on how these two major topics work together.
Have you heard of the microbiome? Have you tried to target your gut health through diet or other lifestyle modifications?