Do you ever get that gut feeling, as though your heart is sitting in your stomach? Or when you crave something to eat so much that it feels like you are not in control of your body? A possible explanation for these sensations, which has also become one of my newest fascinations, is The Microbiome and each and every one of us has a completely unique microbial makeup.
“Microbiome” is defined as the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
My interest and passion in the microbiome started about 3 years ago when I was gifted my first milk kefir grains (more on this topic to follow on our blog). I started doing some research and my whole world opened up to this extremely interesting subject.
Did you know that people in different countries and from different cultures have very different microbiomes; that many microorganisms live in our digestive tract and that different parts of our bodies are made up of different mibrobia? We start off more or less sterile/clean at birth and from then onwards the population and composition of microbes within us constantly changes and shifts throughout our lives depending on various factors, including our diets and stress levels. Under normal conditions, the microorganisms in our guts defend us against pathogens (bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease), assist in energy utilisation and the digestion and absorption of nutrients. However when the microbiome is significantly altered, the number and types of microbes change, which can affect our bodies, both in health and in disease.
When Googling “microbiome”, one of the first pages I came across was the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). This project was established in 2008, with the aim of characterising the microbiome and analysing its role in human health and disease. Over 1300 different microbial strains have been sequenced in people and these microbes together with the genes making up the microbes are considered an important counterpart to our genetic makeup (human genome). One of the major findings of this project was that genetics are only responsible for about 10 % of human disease and that the remaining 90 % are induced by environmental factors (one of which being our microbiome).
Some of the health conditions and diseases that have been linked to the makeup of our microbiome and alterations in our gut flora include: mental and brain health, gastro health and intestinal health, Crohn’s disease, asthma, autism, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, fatty liver disease and even neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Here are some really cool websites for those interested in learning more about your microbiome:
In upcoming blogs I will give tips and more information about restoring and maintaining the balance of your microbiome so don’t forget to look out for my next blog on “Kefir”, a fermented drink which is a great source of probiotics.