WHAT IS THE GUT FLORA?
Inside our body, living in the digestive system, there is a community of microorganisms that is generally called the GUT FLORA or GUT MICROBIOTA.
Every single animal species has a microorganism community inside them, from tiny insects to humans. They are essential for the effectiveness of our digestive process.
The relationship of these microorganisms with us is mutually beneficial: we provide them with food and in exchange they help us absorb certain minerals and other elements. They also produce several different substances and vitamins that our body needs.
Typically, the average person has between 500 and 1000 different species of microorganisms living inside its body. These species usually live in balance with each other without any species becoming dominant.
However, this balance can become upset because of bad nutrition and the widespread usage of antibiotics. As a consequence, some species become more dominant while others can be completely eliminated.
This unbalance of the gut microbiota is called dysbiosis and frequently leads to very serious health problems.
More research is starting to point out dysbiosis of the gut flora as one of the fundamental causes of obesity.
THE ROLE OF THE GUT FLORA AND HOW IT CAN BECOME UNBALANCED
Only recently have we began to take a closer look at the microbes living inside us. That is because most of these microorganisms cannot survive outside of our body. They have evolved to thrive on an environment with little oxygen and when they are exposed to the outside world they die. Advances in DNA analysis have made possible to analyze the remains of this bacteria in our stools. This has allowed us to understand just how diverse and complex this community of microorganisms is.
The gut flora importance cannot be understated. Without the help of these microorganisms we would not be able to digest certain starches, fibers and sugars. It is these microorganisms that break these products into smaller components that we can digest and absorb. They also assist in the absorption of several key elements such as calcium, magnesium and iron. Another extremely important role is the production of several vitamins that we need for our well-being. Vitamin B12, vitamin B11, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B1 and vitamin K2 are all synthetized by gut microbiots.
The gut flora also affects our hormonal balance in several ways, such as assisting in the production of serotonin, which is the hormone most associated with depression.
The gut flora as a whole, works as a virtual organ that influences our metabolism, immune system, nervous system, etc.
It is very important that we have a large variety of different species in our gut. At the same time there needs to be a balance among these different species. If certain species become dominant, it can become a problem.
The modern lifestyle is very damaging to the gut flora and tends to upset this balance.
Antibiotics, that are essential for our survival, are used to kill the harmful microorganisms that cause diseases. They are one of the main reasons why the modern life expectancy is so high.
However, this help comes with a price. The antibiotics kill not only the harmful microorganisms but very often they also kill the beneficial ones, the ones that can help us. The widespread use of antibiotics is one of the main reasons why the current gut flora is so altered in many individuals.
A second factor that strongly influences the gut flora equilibrium is the current diet. It is dominated by only a couple of foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, meat and sugar, and lacks variety.
Because of this it benefits primarily the microorganisms that thrive with these foods.
We also don’t eat enough fiber and vegetables. These are crucial for the development of a balanced microorganism flora inside the gut.
We all know that the ever-present sugar in our actual diet is loaded with calories. But it is also used by a minority of microorganisms to reproduce very quickly and become dominant, such as different types of yeasts. These are the same type of microorganisms that are used to produce beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Many persons have a fully functional internal brewery inside them.
IMPACT OF GUT FLORA PROBLEMS IN YOUR HEALTH
Only recently has medicine started to truly realize the importance of these microorganisms not only in problems of the digestive tract. Their influence extends to several other conditions, both physical as well as mental. Imbalance in the gut flora has been associated with a large number of medical conditions including:
- Autoimmune diseases – it has been found that people that suffer from autoimmune diseases tend to have an imbalance in the different microbes in the gut.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome – persons affected with this condition usually have an abnormal gut flora profile. There tends to occur a decrease in the diversity of the microorganisms and at the same time increased ratios of anaerobic bacteria.
- Depression – of the neurotransmitters that are essential for our brain are produced in the gut, in particular 90% of serotonin. This is the neurotransmitter most associated with depression.
- Liver Diseases – changes in the balance of gut microbiota have been associated with several liver problems, such as cirrhosis and fatty liver.
GUT FLORA AND OBESITY
Researchers have also started to investigate if there might be a correlation between changes in the gut microbiota and the obesity problem. It makes sense, since these microorganisms live in the same location where we absorb nutrients from food.
Indeed many persons that have problem with their weight also have problems with their digestive system.
Several recent studies have found a positive correlation between the abundance of certain types of microorganisms inside our gut and obesity:
- A study by Dr. Nicola Santoro of Yale University, examined the gut microbiota of 84 children and teenagers with different degrees of obesity. Researchers identified eight groups of gut microbes that were present in very high concentrations in the case of the obese participants. These groups were almost absent in the case of lean kids.
- In Denmark, a research team from the University of Copenhagen, found that participants on a study who lost more weight had a higher ration of PREVOTELLA-TO-BACTEROIDES bacteria. Those who lost less weight had a lower ratio of these bacteria.
- To study the effects of the gut flora researchers raise mice in total sterile conditions. As a consequence these mice do not have gut flora. This way researchers can observe what changes occur when gut microbiota is introduced in these mice. If microorganisms from obese mice are introduced, the mice tend to become obese. When the microorganisms come from lean mice this does not occur.
Every year more and more research is published about the gut flora and its relationship with the host organisms. As more results come to light it is becoming clear that the gut microbiota is a determinant factor in many diseases and medical conditions that affect the modern humans. It is probably from this area that new answers and solutions for the obesity problem will arrive.
If you loked this post, please rate it below.
[yasr_overall_rating size=”medium”][yasr_visitor_votes size=”medium”]