MEET YOUR MICROBES
WHAT IS THE MICROBIOME?
The Microbiome is the population of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that colonize your gut, mouth, skin and entire body (that’s 100,000,000,000,000!) Every human on the planet is not only made up of their body parts but also has an entire ecosystem of bacteria, viruses and fungi living on and in them, this is known as your microbiota or microbiome. Now this may sound a little gross but actually, it’s both amazing and incredibly important.
We live in a bacterial world, everything organic on the planet is teeming with tiny microorganisms, too small to be seen by the naked eye. They are found everywhere; in water, in the soil, in the air, on plants and animals. The human body is also home to trillions of these microbes both in and on us. For every human cell we have each person has around 1.3 bacterial cells! We’ve evolved alongside of our microbes and in fact they have become a crucial part of how we function. While we have microbes all over us, most of them live in the gut, and there they perform all sort of roles like breaking down food, producing vitamins B12 and Vitamin K, aiding blood vessel growth and even signalling when we are full.
The healthiest gut seems to be one which contains very diverse bacteria; that’s having a wide variety of species of bacteria, viruses and fungi. The make-up of every indiviudal's microbiome is unique, but different regions of the world also show particular bacterial communities (for example in Japan there is more of a bacteria that can digest seaweed). When the bacterial communities are not diverse and there is an imbalance in gut bacteria this is known as dysbiosis. Studies have linked an imbalance in gut bacteria with a wide range of human illnesses including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn disease, Parkinsons and even MS. A healthy gut bacteria, usually means the human attached to that gut is healthy as well. Fascinatingly, a link is also being established between gut health and mental wellbeing, with dybiosis in the gut bacteria being linked to depression, mental illness and even autistic symptoms.
“A healthy gut bacteria, usually means the human
attached to that gut is healthy as well”
Bridget Supple - Founder Your Baby's Biome
ROLES OF GUT BACTERIA:
Photo credit: Amon P, Sanderson I What is the microbiome? Archives of Disease in Childhood - Education and Practice 2017;102:257-260.
WHY YOUR MICROBIOME IS IMPORTANT
An imbalance in your gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis has been linked to:
WHY EARLY LIFE MATTERS
Early life matter because that is when the microbiome is established in each human and crucially the first microbes are the ones that train the immune system. The current belief is that babies are sterile in the womb, although recent studies have found evidence of microbial DNA in the womb, that is not the same as finding microbial communites, as a result it is still thought that the most important part takes place at the time of birth.
Before birth the Mum’s body gets ready to pass on a ‘payload’ of bacteria to the baby, you can think of this as a starter kit and this starter kit will help establish the babies unique microbiome. We think this also helps train the immune system so that a baby’s body knows which out of the trillions of bacteria it will encounter every day, which are ‘good’ and which might be harmful. This is incredibly important as a human baby can be born in any number of environments, countries, and conditions and they will have to have to live alongside the trillions of microorganisms we share the planet with.
In fact you can think of this transfer at birth as a maternal heritage, a bacterial knowledge that each mother passes down through the generations. This bacterial coexistence has allowed humans to survive and thrive across the globe, from the arctic circle to the savannah. We have learnt to not only coexist with bacteria but have taken them on board to help us live successfully in almost every climate, terrain and place in the world.
What happens in pregnancy matters, the health of the payload being passed makes a difference, what happens at and after birth makes a difference, early interactions, food and envioronment all help form the infant microbiome and therefore affect health and well-being for life.