Join me as a we take a deep dive in to the human gut microbiome in the Gut Microbiome 101 series! The goal of this series is to educate and entertain - the gut microbiome is an endlessly fascinating topic that's not only super interesting, but also has significant effects on your health.
The Gut Microbiome 101 series will:
- give you an overview of the gut microbiome
- delve deeply in to specific areas
- give you insights relevant to your health
- provide actionable strategies*
*these recommendations are not to be considered medical advice and do not replace medical care from your personal health care provider
The series is designed to be understood by both health professionals and the general audience. I hope you all find it useful.
You can use this page to navigate to every post in the series, I will add them here when every new post is published. You can find the first instalment after the image below.
Articles in the Gut Microbiome 101 series
Part 1 is below the graphic underneath this list.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Our bodies have numerous microbial communities - such as on the skin, in the vagina and inside the nose - but it is the gut microbiome specifically that has drawn the most attention and research because it is so centrally important to our overall health.
The human gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microbial species (and their genes) that inhabit our digestive tract. It is often likened to a rainforest, with an enormous variety of species interacting with us (the host), with each other and all are competing for space and nourishment.
Humans have known for a very long time that gut health is central to overall health, but it has only been in the last 20 years or so that a significant amount of research has been done to characterise the microbiome and draw out precisely how it influences health in such a profound way. Microbiome research has quite literally exploded during this period.
The trillions of microbes in the gut microbiome include bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea – bacteria are the most abundant and well researched. Current estimates suggest somewhere between 300 and 1000 unique bacterial species – to demonstrate just how much we are still learning about the gut microbiome, many of these species are not yet well understood.
The microbiome is considered an organ and if weighed, it would be up to 2kg or several pounds.
We co-evolved with these microbes which means that our health and the health of these microbes are intertwined. These living organisms are like any other living thing - they require food and a healthy environment in which to flourish.
Unfortunately, due to various insults, we may have already lost up to 50 percent of our ancestral microbial species.
Most of the gut microbiome is located in the large intestine (colon), with smaller amounts in the small intestine and the stomach. When we refer to the “gut microbiome” we are largely referring to the large intestine/colon.
The microbiome is not homogenous all the way through the gut – rather, there are different niches that make up the microbiome and the species found on the outer layer of the gut lining are also different to that found in the mucosa.
Our own cells and genes are heavily outnumbered by those belonging to microbes. This means we may be considered more microbe than human! A bit of an odd concept perhaps, but a pertinent reminder that humans are not living an isolated experience on this planet. We are connected with all forms of life.
Its location in the gut, where approximately 70% of immune cells are located, means the gut microbiome influences every body system since the immune system has a pivotal role to play throughout the body. The reason most of the immune system is located in the gut is because that is precisely where humans are so vulnerable to the entry of pathogens.
In the next post, we will look at how the microbiome influences our health.
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