Our gut microbiome can be ‘poetry in motion’ or a horror story. It needs to be fed with care.
The system is dynamic. Residues of our digestion, including complex carbohydrates, soluble fibres and cell walls arrive in the large intestine to be fermented by a host of bacteria. This active environment of anaerobic fermentation exists in a fine balance. When all goes well, the right mix of bacteria receiving the right prebiotics, will produce a benevolent microbiome.
A happy microbiome will:
- Hundreds of species of bacteria continue the process of digestion, both of food products and cells rubbed off from the gut wall.
- Feed on excess mucous to keep the gut epithelial wall peachy. This icky sounding feature is the key to enabling the gut lining to transport nutrients into the blood stream, while blocking access to anything harmful.
- Synthesize vitamins, particularly the B vitamin Biotin and two thirds of our intake of vitamin K.
- Short chain fatty acid synthesis. Omega-6 fatty acids are converted to omega-3 fatty acids which are associated with a reduced vulnerability to inflammatory bowel disease.
Extremely important for a healthy biome is keeping the system moving. Our gut needs lots fibrous food and fluid to produce the malleable substrate that can be happily moved along.
The Horror Story
We can feed our gut bugs a junk food diet and expect a refuse pit microbiome. We can also be unlucky and have a system that doesn’t easily tolerate some fairly common foods. Many of us know that if we eat certain foods, maybe gluten, or complex sugars in raw onions, or inulin, the commonly added pre-biotic in ‘health’ foods and drinks, certain bacteria over-react. Bloating or excess gas production is uncomfortable, but worse is possible. It’s unlikely that bacteria cause irritable bowel syndrome but they can certainly exacerbate it. A reduction in the diversity of bacteria in the microbiome is associated with a diseased colon.
The problem with solving horrors is that our bacteria population is unique to ourselves and even within ourselves, is constantly changing. Added to this, bacteria are extremely complex, a variety of bacteria will have many strains. A quality probiotic supplement, with zillions of bacteria of a few varieties, can have a beneficial effect if our biome has been compromised, but there is no guarantee.
Eat Fibre, Drink Fluid, Keep Active
The best we can do is encourage a microbiome of pure poetry.
Eat whole foods, grains, fruit and veg, oats and linseeds are brilliant prebiotics. A low to moderate intake of caffeine and alcohol helps, plus avoiding foods high in salt, fat and sugar.
Prevent dehydration by including water in our choice of beverages.
Encourage gut motility (the ability of an organism to move independently, using metabolic energy) by being active.
Happy gut, happy mood!