Yesterday I discussed probiotics and prebiotics. However, I didn’t go into much detail as to when and why we might need these, so today we’re going to look more closely at the populations of different bacteria in your gut, known as the gut microbiome.
All healthy adults typically harbour more than 1000 species of bacteria. What’s interesting is that the microbes found in the gut vary enormously from person to person, even in healthy people from the same region or background. All sorts of things can influence how many of each of the thousands of different species of bacteria live in your intestines and colon. Everything from your genetics, gender and whether you were breastfed as a baby, to your education, whether you live in an urban or rural setting, and whether you were born by Cesarean section or naturally, can impact your gut microbiome.
Recent research is showing just how important these differences are. For example, infants and young children with allergies have different gut bacteria than those who do not develop allergies. Remember, allergies are simply the immune system attacking things that are harmless, like pollen or pet hair. Normally bacteria in the gut help to protect us against disease, by producing antimicrobial compounds (natural antibiotics) and by blocking the attachment of pathogens (the bad bacteria and viruses) to the walls of the intestine. In doing so, they educate the immune system about which bacteria are helpful, and should be left alone, and which are harmful. In other words, people with allergies had different gut bacteria as children that didn’t train the immune system properly, so it reacts more strongly to things that aren’t actually harmful.
Another important function of the gut microbiome is the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Up to 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria. Serotonin contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, but it also affects appetite and sleep. People with depression often show low levels of serotonin, which is why many antidepressants work by increasing it (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac and Zoloft). This is why many people with digestive diseases like untreated Coeliac’s disease or Crohn’s disease, which can involve frequent episodes of diarrhoea (which would flush many of the bacteria from the gut), often show symptoms of depression. In fact, there have been studies that showed a prebiotic supplement, designed to boost healthy gut bacteria, reduced stress and anxiety.
Even more intriguing is the link between the gut microbiome and obesity. It has been found that obese people have a different gut microbiome from lean people. In fact, the composition of the gut microbiome changes with a person’s weight. Whether this is simply a side effect of weight gain, or an actual cause is not yet clear.
You know where this is going, right? What you eat can have a HUGE impact on the number and types of bacteria in your gut. Fundamentally, a plant based diet rich in fibre and low in fat increases the number and variety of beneficial bacteria, while a typical Western diet high in fat and sugar has the opposite effect. One more reason to step away from the cake and order extra veggies!
The Score for 29 March:
|Calories burned through exercise:||0|
What I ate:
|08:30||Centrum Multivitamin, Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg|
|Soft boiled eggs, 2 large||125g||163||15.75||0.00||0.00||0.00||11.25||3.13||0.00|
|Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal||50g||195||5.00||40.00||6.50||5.00||1.65||0.25||0.00|
|with skimmed milk||150mL||51||5.10||7.50||7.50||0.00||0.15||0.08||0.00|
|11:00||Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey||250mL||25||0.00||6.25||6.25||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|13:30||Homemade veggie tagine||350g||284||10.26||38.28||23.79||7.29||8.26||1.13||0.00|
|served with Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices||70g||175||1.75||31.50||1.68||7.00||4.62||0.35||0.00|
|with Flora light spread||3g||8||0.00||0.08||0.00||0.00||0.90||0.19||0.00|
|Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate bar, 2 squares||20g||113||1.90||6.80||5.80||0.00||8.20||4.80||0|
|16:30||Tesco Twists cheese and onion||80g||322||7.92||55.44||2.64||4.48||6.64||1.04||0.00|
|06:30||Homemade chicken and mushroom risotto||300g||323||32.11||35.73||3.53||1.56||5.47||0.78||0.00|
|Plums, two medium||145g||61||0.87||12.76||12.76||2.32||0.15||0.00||0.00|
|Glass of red wine||150mL||127||0.15||3.90||0.90||0.00||0.00||0.00||15.85|