(NaturalHealth365) It’s becoming increasingly clear that a balance of gut bacteria in the microbiome is crucial to overall health and avoiding chronic disease. Another important aspect of gut health is its connection to our mental/emotional wellbeing.
The average human body contains close to 40 million microbial cells that are crucial to our health. The gut and the immune system are inextricably linked. Up to 1,000 different species of bacteria have been identified in the human gut; however, most people have around 160 different types at any given time.
A healthy, high-fiber diet is the key to microbiome health
Researchers believe a core set of molecular and metabolic processes are closely tied to gut health, the immune system and overall health. When a diversity of gut bacteria are working in harmony, the system thrives.
Diet, over time, is the pathway in which microbes become permanent residents in the body. Diets low in fiber but high in unhealthy fat and sugar can be extremely detrimental to the balance of the gut microbiome.
Never forget, a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is essential for the proper absorption of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.
A study of mice published in Nature found a low-fiber diet reduced their healthy gut bacteria by 60 percent. Returning to a healthy diet restored balance; however, consistent gut microbiome diversity is a key to ongoing health.
How gut bacteria, brain health and chronic disease risk are all connected from birth
Microbiome development begins at birth, and traditional births through the birth canal are far more beneficial to the baby’s microbiome. Unfortunately, babies born by way of caesarean section tend to be more prone to diseases like asthma, eczema, food allergies, fungal infections and celiac disease – later in life.
Beyond the actual time of birth, the microbe Bifidobacterium as well as some types of lactic acid bacteria are crucial during the first few months of life – which is why breastfeeding is so important for the overall health of the child (and mother!)
Note: Babies who only receive formula tend to lack many of the nutrients required for a healthy life.
As the child develops, Bifidobacterium is replaced by Firmicutes and Bacteroides – which are essential for producing vitamins and breaking down complex carbohydrates. Generally speaking, by 3 years of age, the gut microbiome is fully formed.
There is a strong correlation between the gut and the brain as well. For example, female mice that were fed a fast food diet produced offspring with cognitive problems. But, there are so many other examples of how the gut is connected to brain health.
In fact, many integrative healthcare providers are now calling the gut the “second brain.”
Probiotics help to balance the microbiome and reduce the risk of disease
In adulthood, an imbalance in the gut flora can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Research with mice indicates a chronic gut imbalance could lead to DNA damage and chronic inflammation.
However, probiotics could be the key to restoring balance. Rodent studies have found that Lactobacillus reuteri reduced ASD-like and depressive symptoms in mice. Prevotella histicola reduces inflammation, suppresses MS symptoms and is characteristic of a high-fiber diet.
Taking probiotics isn’t a substitute for a nutritious diet. However, they can augment a healthy lifestyle and assist in fighting off chronic disease over a lifetime.
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Sources for this article include:
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