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What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is made up of billions of bacteria that co-exist with other human cells in the lower intestine.

What is the gut microbiome?

Although this might creep some of you out, our gut is colonised by trillions of microscopic organisms that are essential to our health! All together, these organisms can weigh up to 2kg in a healthy adult. These organisms include friendly bacteria, viruses and fungi which play a vital role in normal metabolism, nutrition, immune function and the prevention of disease. As with any other organ of our body, we need to make sure that we ‘feed’ our microbiome with the right nutrition so that it can remain healthy, and keep us healthy as well!

The microbiome and nutrition

Although the human body is made up of at least a trillion different cells, we are still terrible at tasks that single cell organisms (like bacteria) have figured out. As a result, we rely on the gut microbiome for access to several vital nutrients. For example, our bodies are also unable to utilise fibre in its natural form and rely on the gut microbiome to transform it into smaller sugar molecules which we can absorb! The microbiome also produces extra B vitamins and vitamin K to help us achieve our daily required intake. 

The microbiome and immune function

The microbiome also acts as the foot soldiers for our gut, protecting the body against disease in tandem with our actual immune system. The microbiome prevents other harmful pathogens from attaching to our gut and making us sick. This occurs through the production of natural anti-microbial compounds which destroy harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Feeding your gut microbiome

Your diet can enrich specific beneficial microbial populations sitting in your gut to help them maintain your gut health! Here are some easy tips to maintain your gut health:

  • Feed your gut microbiome with a wide range of plant-based foods. Some foods known as prebiotics are especially great for your gut: wholegrains, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, legumes, cabbage and kale.
  • Eat more fibre!
  • Avoid highly processed foods which may suppress beneficial microbes

Sources: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2017/april/the-gut-microbiome/#11

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/what_should_you_eat_for_a_healthy_gut

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