Our body is no less than a wonder that it houses thousands of microscopic organisms and each of these organisms plays its role keep our body healthy and alive.
It doesn’t even strike us unless we read that almost 39 trillion microbial cells like fungi, viruses, and bacteria are present in our bodies, but they merely occupy 1 to 3 percent of our entire mass. It is possible only due to their tiny size; that they constitute only about 1-3 percent of our body’s mass. But that doesn’t negate the potential and power of these microbiomes.
The cells in our body contain around 20-25,000 genes, but the human microbiome has 500 times more. These microbes can further develop and multiply, adapt themselves to survive in changing circumstances, and swap genes.
Right from fungi, viruses, bacteria, and all other microorganisms found on the planet are called microbes and they create an ecosystem in our body, skin, airways, mouth, and digestive tract. They also live on various surfaces we interact with like our homes, hospitals, workplaces, soil, water, and air.
The rapid development in microbiome research has made it a topic of great interest for both researchers and the public. Some experts even consider the microbiome as a separate organ crucial for new medical treatments.
What Is Microbiome?
Microorganisms comprises of microbes like viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms living in a specific environment. Microorganisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract or skin also fall under the same category. These microorganisms change due to various factors like medication, diet, exercise, and other exposures.
Some people think microbiomes are bad, but they are not. There are good microbes that provide many benefits. For humans, bacteria that live in their gut help in food digestion. Similarly, bacteria on the skin help break down the lipids to moisturize the skin.
These microbes do good things to your body and provide colonization resistance. They prevent harmful pathogens from invading and colonizing your body. This way they keep you fit and healthy.
What Does Microbiome Do?
The microbiome is beneficial for your body in many ways. The gut microbiome activates genes in cells, enabling them to break down toxins, absorb nutrients, and produce blood vessels.
They control fat storage and nourish your skin and gut lining. It also replaces dying or damaged cells with new ones.
Our native microbes stop outside pathogens from entering the body. This enables them to prevent sickness and other health problems.
At the time of birth, our defense system is formed partially. It becomes stronger after interacting with microbes that influence immune cells for good.
Different microbe species on our bodies change the way we smell. They convert our sweat to give us a distinctive smell. Studies show that people can be identified just from their sweaty clothes.
Scientists say that sleep affects the rhythm of gut bacteria. Poor sleep patterns spoil the synchronization between our gut bacteria and behavior. This causes different microbe species to be active at the wrong times.
The microbiome also helps dispose of the “thanatomicrobiome.” When we die, our immune system stops working. This causes the microbes to spread all over our body.
The gut bacteria digest tissues and cells in our body. They invade the intestines, lymph nodes, capillaries, liver, brain, heart, and other body parts. They eat the chemicals produced by our dead cells, helping the body to decompose.
Where Is The Microbiome?
The human body is one of the ideal places for microbes to live. Our body supports different microbe species. Each body part has a different ecosystem, exhibiting different characteristics.
Our hands and faces are exposed to different microbes when we touch a surface or thing. These microbes live in cool and dry places.
Our armpits have a different bacteria type. They live in dark, moist, and warm places.
The human foot has 600 sweat glands per square centimeter. They secrete various vitamins, salts, amino acids, and glucose. It is an ideal diet for bacteria groups that live on the feet.
Our gut microbiome consists of different bacteria that live with each other. They live in a dark environment, surrounded by low oxygen, and high acidity.
Where Do These Microbes Come From?
We get three-quarters of our microbiome from our mother. The human body gets covered with the microbes the moment it comes out through the birth canal.
They start playing their role of keeping the body healthy right after the baby is born. When the babies are born through cesarean do not have these vaginal microbes which make their immune systems comparatively low than naturally born babies. Such are more prone to developing asthma, allergies, obesity, and coeliac disease later in life.
We also ingest microbes through food. These microbes thrive in our gut. If we change our diet, it will impact the gut microbiome and this is why, the food we eat plays an important role in determining the bacteria type in our gut.
We are exposed to microbes from different people and places almost every minute of our day. Every home has a unique microbiome. Microbes take merely 24 hours to make inhabit our body and make it their home.
People who live with pets come in contact with a wider range of microbes, which is not a thing to be scared of as it makes your immune system stronger.
Scientists have found modern allergies like hay fever are more common in people with a weaker immune system, which makes it evident how important is the role of microbes in our lives.
Where Do Microbes Live On Our Body?
Microbes live on different body parts. From head to toe, they exist everywhere. These microbes are crucial for our body, helping us to live a healthy life.
We have microbes in our armpits. These microbes encounter sweat and produce a compound called “thioalcohols, making our armpits to smell. Certainly, one of the worst microbes to be living in our body.
Microbes are present on our scalp. Dandruff is created to create a balance between Staphylococcus and Propionibacterium.
Staphylococcus epidermidis live on our feet, making them produce smell.
Somewhere 400 trillion microbes live in our gut and the majority of us work to keep our digestion intact.
We have Streptococcus mutans inside our mouths. It converts sugars into acid that damages our teeth’ enamel, causing cavities.
Our skin has Propionibacterium in our hair follicles and pores, which is the reason for acne and marks.
Our gut and digestive tract have different bacteria. Therefore, they are also found in our fecal matter. Almost 30 percent of feces are dead bacteria.
Lactobacillus microbes make our vagina their home and release lactic acid to keep the vaginal acidic pH low. Also, Lactobacillus microbes keep other viruses, bacteria, and yeast from blooming in that area.
- Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is the largest in the human body. It includes organisms that live in the large intestines or colon. Studies show the importance of gut microbiome for our health.
There are approx. 40 trillion microbes in our large and small intestines, which is 5000 times more than Earth’s population.
Studying the Role of Gut Microbiome In Our Body
The gut microbiome has 150 times more genes than us and they have a crucial role in performing various important tasks for our body. Living without them will make it hard to stay healthy.
Not only this, but the gut microbes have an important role to play and give us a lot of benefits. Let us break down the details in the pointers below.
The microbes in our small and large intestines produce a protein that helps with digestion. These microbes break down gluten, lactose, and other food sources.
- Immune Health
70% of our immune system is present in our gut and the interaction between our immune cells and microbiota makes our immune system strong.
- Energy Levels
Certain bacteria that produce B-vitamins increase our energy levels help in digestion and extract energy-boosting nutrients from our food.
- Skin Health
Good bacteria on our skin generate substances that are good for our body. These bacteria are different from the ones that produce toxins and cause poor skin.
- Mental Health
Studies have proved that the gut microbiome affects also our mental health. This may be not common news but neurotransmitters are produced in the gut. This way our gut communicates with our brain. Our gut also produces Serotonin, which is responsible for making us happy.
- First-line Defence
Gut bacteria helps keeping the pathogens from entering our bodies and act as the first line of defense. They confine the entry of harmful toxins or bacteria into our immune system.
- Vaginal Microbiome
The vaginal microbiome lives inside the vagina and is directly associated with our intimate health. A vagina is a place where billions of microorganisms live together, the good and the bad ones.
The microbiome present in our vagina is Lactobacillus. They are the most dominating bacteria of our vaginal ecosystem. 95% of the vaginal flora belongs to different species, which include:
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus iners
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus crispatus
- Lactobacillus jensenii
The best way to classify bacteria is by determining their strain, genus, and species; each strain is unique and has different characteristics. Not just this, they all live in the different parts of our body, and create their own ecosystem.
The Many Benefits of Vaginal Microbiome
We must not underestimate the vaginal microbiome. They benefit us in various ways, one of which is to protect your vagina from infections by stopping unwanted bacteria and pathogens from entering. We have also listed out more benefits associated with it:
- Produces Lactic Acid
The production of lactic acid maintains the vagina’s pH balance, making sure it’s slightly acidic. The lactic acid prevents harmful bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens that grow well in alkaline environments. The pH value of a healthy vagina is a 4.5.
- Produces Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide and other substances which play a role in stopping unwanted pathogen pathogens to overgrow are also produced in the vagina, which can lead to infections.
Factors Affecting Vaginal Microbiome
Plenty of factors cause harmful bacteria to grow in the vaginal. These include high-sugar diets, sexual intercourse, antibiotics, perfumed body wash products, and stress.
A disrupted vaginal flora dwindles the pH level, surpassing 4.5. This makes it an ideal breeding ground for various vaginal infections. These include:
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Females from 15-44 age groups are most likely to encounter vaginal infection.
- Yeast Infections (Thrush)
Yeast primarily belonging to the Candida family is responsible for yeast infection.
Future Of Microbiome
A lot of research work is done on the microbiome. This helps us to manipulate the gut bacteria for various health benefits. Some of the leading institutions in this research field include Stanford University, Reading University, and Cork University.
Most research work focuses on the relationship between the microbiome and our health. Dysbiosis in our gut is linked to several health issues which include the following:
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Poor immune health
- Skin disorders: acne, eczema, & psoriasis
- Heart health
- Liver disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Mental health disorders
- Food intolerances
- Intimate health
- Parkinson’s disease
The research observes the difference in microbial composition, especially between “disease” and “healthy” states.
Researchers are working to develop a “microbial algorithm” to avoid invasive procedures. Although this work is in its early stages, it promises good results.
How to Strengthen Your Microbiome
About trillions of microbes make a human microbiome, which lives in your gut and other body parts, contributing to your overall health. Now something which is this important for our health must be taken care of as well. A thriving microbiome is good for both your mental and physical health.
We have shared some ways to strengthen your microbiome:
- Eat More Vegetables
Incorporating vegetables is important for our gut and to regulate its health, precisely the leafy ones. They have fibers in abundance that are digested by the friendly bacteria in your gut.
People who follow a balanced diet consisting of vegetables and fruits fall less sick. A good diet prevents disease-causing bacteria from affecting your health. Some vegetables that are good for your microbiome are spinach, onions, leeks, broccoli, artichokes, and asparagus.
- Take Probiotics
A probiotics course once in a while is important as they have bacteria good for the human body.
When you want to take a course on probiotics, make sure to consult a doctor. Not everybody is ideal for every strain, and experienced doctor will tell you the best strain ideal for your body type and health condition. You can easily avail the probiotics is easy as they are available in any drug or healthy food store.
- Avoid Sugar and Processed Food
Monnosaccaride is a fast-digesting sugar. It is bad for your health because good bacteria cannot digest it. Eating too much simple sugar can starve your microbiome, causing inflammation.
You should include complex sugar in your diet to keep your microbiome healthy like dark chocolate, apple, honey, coconut flour, mango, berries, sweet potatoes, and bananas are some sweet foods that will make your gut happy.
You must not forget to keep a check on monosaccharides in foods like protein bars, nut butter, yogurt, smoothies, and salad dressings. Do not indulge yourself into eating these foods too often to ensure your gut remains healthy.
- Consume Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are good for your gut bacteria, and you must consume them frequently. Yogurt without sugar is a popular probiotic which you can incorporate in your diet, and other fermented products are pickles, kefir, kombucha, and kimchee.
- Eat Less Red Meat
You should eat red meat less because it is bad for your gut bacteria. Many meat brands raise livestock using antibiotics. This can be extremely bad for your gut.
Studies show vegetarian people have more good bacteria than meat eaters. This is because they don’t eat meat and consume more fiber from various plant sources.
- Avoid Antibiotics
Antibiotics impact our body in a very harmful way and they kill good bacteria in our gut and digestion problems.
The main reason to use antibiotics is to treat illness, but while they treat us, they kill the microbes working in the favour of our body. Antibiotics fail to distinguish between bad and good bacteria. You must take a probiotic daily to replenish your gut bacteria and reduce the health effects before you start the antibiotic dosage.
- Go To Gym
Regular workout is good for both your health and gut bacteria. Physically active people have diverse and healthier microbes.
Working is the best way to keep your body stress free and you do not require doing hard-core workouts. Just take a 30-minute’ walk to keep your gut healthy.
What Do You Mean By Microbiome Tests?
Microbiome tests check the microbiome in a person’s stool sample. This helps determine the different bacteria present in their digestive tract. People take a microbiome test, especially if they are worried about their gut health.
The tests measure the microbes level present in the GI tract and prevent conditions like chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colorectal cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The test analysis helps identify the bacteria types and subtypes in your gut.
How Do Microbiome Tests Work?
Many commercial microbiome testing companies provide microbiome tests. It includes two types of fecal testing. The first type involves extracting DNA, and the other type includes checking markers indicating a condition or illness.
Healthcare professionals take stool samples to the lab and grow the bacteria found in them. This way they determine the bacteria species. This information helps determine treatment options.
In commercial testing, healthcare professionals extract DNA from your stool sample to identify the bacteria and quantity present. The bacteria number and type vary between samples. Some bacteria are found on the gut wall and don’t appear in the stool sample.
Microbiome tests cannot confirm if the bacteria are dead or alive. It only shows their presence in the stool sample.
Who Takes A Microbiome Test?
Taking a microbiome test doesn’t require a person to fall sick, or contract irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You can buy a microbiome test from any company that provides it. Testing companies suggest people take microbiome tests to learn more about their digestive tract.
Anybody can buy a microbiome test and find out the bacteria types in their GI tract. But if you suspect an illness or a chronic condition, you should show the results to a doctor. A professional can guide you better in this matter.
Tips To Choose A Microbiome Test
Before buying a microbiome test, you should check if the product fulfills the following criteria:
- Analysis: Confirm that the test provides a detailed analysis.
- Explanation: Some companies provide more straightforward test results than others.
Can You Use Microbiome To Treat Diseases?
Some studies suggest that the microbiome might be able to treat illnesses. However, there are not enough studies conducted on this topic yet.
One common way to make the microbiome healthy is by using probiotics and restoring proper balance. But for the probiotic to take effect, it has to stay longer in the gut.
Microbiome can also affect our body’s way of responding to medical treatments. Researches show gut bacteria improves the melanoma treatment’s success rate.
Microbiome bacteria make immune cells strong, causing them to attack cancer cells. Another researcher found that cancer patients with diverse gut microbiomes have higher success rates with transplants.
The microbiome plays many roles which makes them important to the human body. Working with the digestion to the immune system, they largely contribute to our overall health and well-being. The relationship between our body and the microbiome makes is very important. We should make mindful choices like eating a balanced diet to help the microbiome thrive. A happy microbiome keeps you up and enhances your health.