Adrian here! Our microbiome is the collection of bacteria and other microscopic critters that live on and inside us (mostly in the gut). The first surprising thing is that the majority of these critters are actually friendly and help us in MANY ways.
The microbiome is sometimes called the ‘forgotten organ’ of our body. Calling our microbiome an ‘organ’ is recognition that, like the heart or lungs, it performs important functions that we couldn’t live without.
However our poor little gut bugs haven’t received much recognition for this help over the years. This is largely because our scientific understanding of the microbiome has only really taken off in the last 15 years or so. We’re only just beginning to appreciate how important it is.
In fact, it’s when the friendly gut bugs stop helping us that we’re given a lesson in just how vital they are. We find that we have become sick, fat, inflamed and depressed, and we’re thinking: ‘come back critters, all is forgiven, I’m sorry for wiping you all out with antibiotics and junk food!’
Now I’ll hand over to one of our resident clinical nutritionists and gut health coaches, Naomi Langford-Archer, to break it down for us.
What’s the purpose of our microbiome? If you were asked what the role of your heart, liver, eyes or ears were, I’m pretty sure you would have a good answer. Can the same be said for your microbiome?
Bacteria are everywhere, often existing in harmony with other living things. Plants, for example, are home to lots of good bacteria which help protect them.
Should the plant come into contact with harmful invading bacteria, the naturally residing good bacteria produce chemicals to destroy the invaders, thereby saving the plant’s life.
The same is true for us. The friendly bacteria in our microbiome produce conditions that are unfavourable for potentially pathogenic or harmful bacteria.
People think that bacteria are purely bad for us but the truth is that many strains of bacteria have evolved to live in harmony with us. We provide a home to them and in return they protect us. In biology this is called ‘symbiosis’ and it occurs in EVERY plant and animal alive on the planet.
The ways that these bacteria help us are many and varied. They provide huge benefits to our gut, immune system, metabolism, brain and entire health. So here are just five surprising things are microbiome does for us:
1. It guides our immune system
It does this by: –
a) communicating with immune cells
Recent scientific studies have revealed the surprising fact that our immune system struggles to differentiate friend from foe without the help of friendly bacteria. This leads to a whole raft of problems.
We develop allergies, asthma, food intolerances and, at the more severe end of the scale, autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis or psoriasis where our immune system attacks our own body.
We look at this more in Supercharge Your Body To Crush Autoimmune
b) reducing inflammation
Bacteria feed on undigested fibre in our gut, producing something known as short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) which are vital to optimal gut health. SCFA’s protect our gut lining, reducing inflammation.
The process of guiding the immune system to respond correctly to threats also helps to reduce inflammation throughout our body.
When our immune system stops treating pollen, peanuts or own body as a threat, this switches off the unnecessary inflammatory response. Take a look at Inflammation: Putting Out The Fire
2. It defends the body against invaders
It does this by: –
a) acting as a barrier to the bad guys
The beneficial bacteria that line our entire intestinal tract literally act as a protective barrier. They help prevent harmful chemicals, toxins, pathogens and undigested food passing into our blood stream and doing us harm.
b) killing off harmful bacteria
Our friendly gut bugs keep us safe by secreting lactic acid into our gut to create an acidic environment in which nasty pathogenic bacteria cannot survive.
Some friendly bacteria also do battle with invading pathogens, controlling their numbers and preventing the baddies from taking over.
3. It helps in regulating our weight
Beneficial gut bacteria affect our hunger and satiety hormones as well as fat storage hormones. Scientific studies show that without enough friendly gut bugs on board, our metabolism malfunctions.
One surprising result is that we end up extracting MORE calories from food than we would do otherwise, leading to weight gain.
Beneficial bacteria also reduce cravings for sweet, starchy foods.
We look at this in more detail here: Overweight and Malnourished at The Same Time
4. It reduces the risk of depression and other mental health conditions
90% of our body’s serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) is made by these beneficial bacteria.
In this way our microbiome plays a vital role in reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.
We look at this more in Brain Health Begins In the Gut
5. It makes important vitamins that nourish our body, such as:
– vitamin K, which is required for normal blood clotting and reduces risk of bone loss, something that’s particularly important for post-menopausal women
– vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which is important in alleviating conditions such as asthma and other respiratory disorders and allergies as well as stress and anxiety
– folate, which helps in maintaining a healthy heart and lowers the risk of depression. It’s also important in decreasing the risk of birth defects so is vital before and during pregnancy.
– Vitamin B1 (thiamine) promotes a healthy nervous system, skin, hair, mouth and liver. It also improves the body’s ability to cope with stress.
– Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is proven to help prevent headaches and migraines
– Vitamin B3 (niacin) is important in energy production
– Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) maintains heathy blood vessels and protects eye health
– Vitamin B12 prevents memory loss and lowers the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
Patients with low levels of beneficial bacteria are often deficient in these important vitamins, but by restoring their gut health these vital vitamins can return to normal levels.
These vitamins that are made by our friendly gut bugs aren’t just ‘nice to have’, we really need them! They’re important for how our body heals and functions on a day to basis. Without them our quality of life can be seriously impaired.
Caring for our gut bugs
Modern-day life negatively affects our microbiome in a multitude of different ways.
For example, the huge increase in processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, bottle-feeding instead of breast-feeding our babies, as well as a decrease in the consumption of probiotic rich foods, have all taken their toll on our poor little gut bugs.
Take a look at Why Your Gut Is Broken and What’s All the Hype About Fermented Food?
If our microbiome is unbalanced and we don’t have enough of the good guys to look after us, we can wind up with a nasty combination of problems such as eczema, asthma, inability to lose weight, depression, anxiety and autoimmune conditions.
The good news is that these conditions can be reversed by healing our gut!
40 thoughts on “Five Surprising Things Your Microbiome Does For You”
I remember learning about this in school. Thanks for the much needed refresher.
I knew these facts already, but it is amazing what can microbiomes can do for our bodies. They are our Superman!
I haven’t read anything on the microbiome in a long time. I’m pleased to get a “refresher” and to learn more about what lives on and inside the human body. And what we can do to maintain our guts healthy.
microbiome is a wonerdful thing and I am glad to learn to more about the benefits what’s good for our gut health! – Knycx Journeying
It’s amazing what the right food can do for you. I’m actually mending and healing my intestines with high-quality yogurt. Works like a charm.
Wow, I never knew about it, thanks for sharing it.
This so informative, love it. Thank you for the post.
This is so cool, first time to know about these information. Thank you for sharing!
Does it also protect us from the Covid 19 Pandemic?
This is very helpful, thank you. I’ve heard about good guts but didn’t fully understand the bacteria aspect. Makes good sense.
I haven’t researched a lot about microbiome yet that’s why I’m so amazed to see all these! Definitely have to research on this more
I need my microbiome to work a little better here. Having PCOS I am prone to inflammation which is why I have such a hard time losing weight.
You educate me so well. thank you for sharing new stuff for me. I didn’t even know what microbiome is
I remember learning about the microbiome in my High school biology class. However, I guess I didn’t’ pay enough attention considering I forgot most of the material. This post was great at jogging my memory though. I get weirded out thinking there are little living things inside me. Then I learn about all the things they do and I realize how cool they all are. Thanks for sharing!
These are certainly amazing information that help me understand my body better.
Yup. The microbiome is essential for human development, immunity, and nutrition. The bacteria living in and on us are not invaders but beneficial colonizers. Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia are associated with dysfunction in the microbiome.
thanks so much for sharing this beneficial info, really learnt them all 😀 A good surprise indeed to learn them 😀 cheers, siennylovesdrawing
I have just begun to understand how important this topic is. Your article is an eye-opener considering the various role and supporting help that the gut bacteria to the health of the body
Where does it located? I Never heard of it before. Amazing!!!
I’ve only just begun to understand the importance of having a healthy gut and what that means. Thank you for this helpful info!
I had no idea that is where serotonin is made! Fantastic info!!
You just don’t come across such information on a daily basis. The good thing is, I am already on a healthy diet and avoiding junk & processed food for a long time now.
Learned something new. Thank you for great advice
Wow the forgotten organ. I barely learned this in school so thanks for breaking down the important of this!
It’s amazing just how much our gut does for the whole body. Great article!
Learnt something new after reading your post. Thanks!
Wow, I never heard about the Microbiome before! What a great and interesting read! Thanks for educating me about it!
Thanks for this wonderful information. My gut bacteria are very weak, because of having PDS. My doctor said there is nothing I can do about 🤔
A few months ago I started informing myself more on the topic of gut health. It is amazing how much gut can influence our well being.
Very interesting article you wrote here. Thanks for sharing.
I haven’t read about this but it seems interesting. My brother is a doctor and he study about these and surprise us on how some things like this could be healthy for us.
I have a very sensitive stomach but I never knew about the good gut bacteria inside and how important it is in keeping you healthy. I can notice the difference immediately when I eat something that is processed, as my stomach will react.
This is so fascinating. I’m obsessed with learning about the brain but after reading this realize I need to focus on the second brain too! I never heard of microbiome so thank you for explaining in detail why it’s important to know and how to keep our guts healthy.
The part that got our attention was how it affects Mental health. Mental health is such Global issue. Infact it will be cool to see some videos around this topic for our EmpowerAndHelp Global Awareness Challenge 2020 at https://empowerandhelp.com/services/empowerandhelp-global-awareness-challenge-2020/ ) – Also sharing the article. So worth reading !!!!!
I had no idea that my microbiome helps to reduce anxiety and depression. That is a topic that I’d love to explore further! Thanks for sharing!
very cool! Never knew about microbiome
This is great advice for me right now, as I am suffering through the leaky gut, and any help that I read is fantastic.
Very interesting information. Thanks so much for sharing.
Wow, I didn’t know bacteria are so important to our health! But it still doesn’t explain why I am so healthy and overweight at the same time hahaha Ok, joking aside this article is very interesting, hopefully it could spread some knowledge and be helpful to lots of people!
Wow, I didn’t know anything about this. I feel so much smarter now 🙂
Even more proof of how important gut health is. I’m off to drink some kombucha! 🙂