What is the Microbiome?
Progressing sciences believe our bodies have up to 3 times more bacterial cells than human cells, accounting for around 2 kgs of our weight. The gastrointestinal tract is the body's main reservoir for microorganisms, more than 2000 bacterial species live in the small intestines alone.
All of the microorganisms that naturally inhabit the human body (including bacteria, bacteriophages, fungi, protozoa, and viruses) are called the microbiota. These microbiotas bring an array of additional genes, and this is what we call the microbiome.
Functions of Microbiota
The relationship between the microbiota and the human body is symbiotic; the microbiota feed from their hosts' diet and in return help to maintain the overall health of the host. Microbiota’s core functions include:
Synthesis of essential metabolites and nutrients, like vitamins and hormones, Anti-oxidative effects, Protection against pathogens through the production of antimicrobials, Modulation of the immune system & Maintenance of the intestinal barrier function.
What impacts the microbiome?
The microbiome has co-evolved with us for millions of years. Its composition and structure are shaped by a combination of environmental and genetic forces (age, geographic origin, pollution, diet, etc).
Lifestyle changes especially after the industrial revolution (for instance, the use of antibiotics and disinfectants or consumption of processed foods) have drastically changed our microbiota, typically for the worse - studies show how urbanization brings with it a drastic loss of microbiota diversity.
Impact of an unhealthy microbiome
When the microbiota is disturbed (called dysbiosis), opportunistic pathogens and negative activities of gut microbes can increase, increasing the likelihood of, or directly causing:
Antibiotic-associated diarrhea, Clostridium difficile infection, Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Allergies, Irritable bowel syndrome, Auto-immune diseases, Colon cancer, Depression, and anxiety.