It may sound surprising to you that your gut is colonised by a community of 100 trillion bacteria.
These little orgasms have an overwhelming effect on our life as the majority of them act as instrumental vehicles in our body’s metabolic system by improving energy harvest from foods. For example, they can degrade the polysaccharide such as starch which the human body cannot digest. The microbes also help the host by improving mucosal immunity, intestinal permeability, and by harmonising the compounds of the food we take.
Researchers have found out that an adult microbiota carries over a thousand species of bacteria of which Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes – constitute over 90% of the gut bacteria cells – are the major phylotypes.
However, the composition of the gut bacteria cells within an individual is directly connected with the genetic condition and age of the host. It also depends on external factors such as dietary changes, consumptions of antibiotics, prebiotics, and probiotics.
Our diet is one of the most instrumental factors that profoundly affect the composition of gut bacteria.
For example, breastfed babies are mainly colonised with bifidobacteria which are believed to be beneficial for the development of the early immune system. In contrast, the gut bacteria colony of a bottle-fed baby is more diverse which includes Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Enterobacteriaceae.
Food habits often differ because of factors such as geographical location, and social circumstances. Studies found significant variability among the gut bacteria of different social and geological groups. One research titled “Comparative analysis of Korean human gut microbiota” found UniFrac analysis between Russian, American, Danish, Chinese, and Korean reveals, gut bacteria composition of these groups are not exactly the same. American had higher Firmicutes, Japanese had higher Actinobacteria, and Korean and Chinese are enriched in Bacteroides.
For infants, the lack of bacterial diversity can cause health problems – asthma, allergic sensitization, allergic rhinitis, and peripheral blood eosinophilia – in childhood. But, thanks to scientific advance, it is now possible to introduce nutrition formulas that contain prebiotics to increase the number of crucial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that can selectively influence one or a limited number of gut bacterias beneficial for the body.
The different gut bacteria can target different food ingredients and sometimes can even more effectively utilise the food ingredients – polysaccharides, fat, protein, and vitamins – than the host which enhances the production of short-chain fatty acids like acetate, propionate, and butyrate. It has enormous health benefits such as the reduced risk of a metabolic disorder.
And because of the unique ability to target different food ingredients, the introduction of prebiotics can become a game changer for your health.
Vegetarian Diets which is considered as high fibre and less fat causes dominance of Clostridium coccoides, Clostridium ramosum. A vegan or vegetarian diet that carefully takes into consideration the age and gender of the participant can significantly change the composition of human gut bacteria.
In the health and wellbeing community, it is now common wisdom that foods rich in prebiotics such as Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, and chicory have the ability to modulate gut bacteria by elevating the number of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
In rural Russia starch-rich bread and organic production results in an increase of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. But this effect can be achieved even if you’re an urban resident. Quality supplements with prebiotics have improved applicability. You can always try supplements such as fructooligosaccharides or inulin to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
But if you’re brave and a lover of dairy products, probiotics can also be an option to improve your gut health.
The most common groups of probiotics are the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. They’re “live microorganisms often administrated to colonise the colon.
Introduction of probiotics impacts microbiome‐encoded enzymes associated to plant polysaccharide metabolism. It prevents the human gut from pathogens invasion by increasing the amount of mucus secretion as well as improves the mucosal integrity and reduce the gut permeability.
Some may also suggest that probiotics can be used to treat obesity as researchers have observed anti-obesity effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus PL60 and Lactobacillus paracasei both of which are human generated gut bacteria.
But, for over fifty years probiotics have been used by the cattle farmers to fatten the poultry which makes it really difficult to deny that probiotics can have a similar effect in humans too by altering the intestinal flora.
Please, don’t take me wrong. I love my probiotics rich foods – yoghurt, kimchi, pickles, and miso – they’re healthy and have no intention of giving them up.
Just in case, you’re lured to use probiotics supplements, test them carefully before consumption.