The instant you take a bite of food, your body begins turning that food into energy.
After you swallow, the food travels further down into the dark recesses of your digestive tract and into the home territory of the microorganisms that live in your gut.
These tiny microorganism creatures are the vital players that turn your food into energy.
A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are essential for maintaining health.
However, these lifestyle choices explain only part of the story.
Your body's metabolism is also regulated by the hidden players in the digestive tract—collectively referred to as the "gut microbiome."
In this article you will learn
- What is the gut microbiome?
- How does the gut microbiome affect health?
- How we can improve health through changes to the gut microbiome
- Where can you find additional gut-microbiome resources?
What is the gut microbiome?
Most of the trillions of microorganisms that reside on and inside our bodies have evolved to live in harmony with humans over thousands of years—so much so that some critical functions of our system are dependent on these microorganisms’ presence and activities (Lee and Mazmanian, 2010).
Unlike infectious germs, these microorganisms are partners to human cells, providing mostly harmless and often useful functions.
Researchers generally believe that the gut microbiome is first developed at birth. However, some suggest that we encounter trace amounts of microbes inside the mother’s womb (Aagaard et al., 2014).
Other things that dynamically shape our infant gut microbiome include:
- Our delivery method at birth
- Our initial feedings, and
- Our early hygiene
Microbiota growth tends to stabilize in adulthood, yet the composition is continuously influenced by environmental factors such as:
- Medications (especially antibiotics)
- Geography, and
Studies of populations unaffected by the Western lifestyle, notably those with diets high in fiber, show that long-term dietary patterns result in fundamental differences in gut microbiome composition (Jha et al., 2018; Smits et al., 2017; Vangay et al., 2018).
Dietary intervention studies also show that even short-term changes in diets can rapidly change the microbial makeup of the gut (David et al., 2014).
How does the gut microbiome affect health?
How can the gut microbiome, which is physically separate from human cells, influence human physiology?
The gut microbiome's microbes ("beneficial bacteria") speak the same language as human cells, and communicate by producing metabolites, or "postbiotics."
One example of a postbiotic is butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced by the bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber in the gut.
SCFAs come in many forms. In addition to butyrate, acetate and propionate are the most common SCFAs.
Different types of fiber and bacteria present in the gut determine the types and amounts of SCFA produced.
People with obesity and Type 2 diabetes seem to have fewer butyrate-producing bacteria in their gut microbiomes, which may suggest a link between the lack of butyrate and the pathologies behind those conditions (Karlsson et al., 2013; Larsen et al., 2010; Qin et al., 2012).
How we can improve health through changes to the gut microbiome?
Diet shapes the gut microbiome.
The modern, "Westernized" diet is low on fiber and high in fat, sugar, and unnatural additives.
This combination reduces or removes certain groups of beneficial bacteria from the gut. When those conditions persist, the gut microbiome can weaken.
While more controlled human-intervention studies are needed, research suggests that some simple interventions can improve gut-microbiome health ("gut health").
The benefits of fiber-rich food are well known.
Fiber slows your digestion so you stay fuller longer, and it also helps with blood-sugar and cholesterol control.
Fiber-rich food—such as fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts, and whole grains—are particularly good at supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
In addition, polyphenol-rich foods, including green tea and berries, appear to improve the gut microbiome and increase beneficial groups of bacteria.
(2) Get prebiotic foods into your gut
Prebiotic foods pack specific types of fiber known to feed selective groups of bacteria that confer health benefits.
Inulin, which occurs naturally in high concentrations in chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes, is a prebiotic fiber source that supports your gut microbiome's beneficial bacteria.
(3) Take probiotics to restore “missing” beneficial bacteria
If your gut microbiome has already been damaged from following a prolonged "Westernized" diet, just adding back fiber in the short-term will not be enough to completely restore beneficial bacteria (Healey et al., 2018; Sonnenburg et al., 2016).
You can, however, aid the “healing” process by taking targeted, medical probiotics designed to improve gut health (e.g., increase butyrate production upon ingestion of dietary fiber; stimulate mucin production).
Pendulum Akkermansia is one option for healing your gut health.
In addition to improving gut health, Pendulum Akkermansia:
- Optimizes the balance of your gut-mucus layer
- Helps maintain a healthy ecosystem of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome
- Replaces lost Akkermansia muciniphila levels in the gut
- Contains chicory inulin, which acts as food for 6 mg of the Akkermansia muciniphila probiotic
Where Can You Find Additional Gut-Microbiome Resources?
Check out Pendulum Life Digest! Go to the search bar and type “gut microbiome.”
When looking for microbiome resources, always look for credentialed, qualified sites that have registered dietitians or qualified credentialed healthcare providers providing sound, scientific advice.
To learn more about gut-microbiome basics, watch Pendulum’s “Microbiome 101” video.
And get the latest gut-microbiome health tips by following Pendulum on the following social-media sites: