What is the gut microbiome & how does it influence health?
Many facets of our health are influenced by the complex community of trillions of microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract. This community is known as the gut microbiome or is often refered to as gut health. They play a crucial role in metabolism, vitamin synthesis, energy and hormone production and the immune system. A healthy microbiome will protect the human host from pathogens (Magne et al., 2020).
Benefits of probiotics & gut health
Although there are plenty of scientific peer reviewed studies about probiotics being good for the immune system, there is also research that conflicts with this and there is still so much yet to be fully discovered about the microbiome. What is clear though is that the bacteria in our gut can influence almost every facet of our health.
Each person has a unique microbiome, like a fingerprint and therefore the effectiveness of a probiotic may be dependant on the strains of bacteria that are missing or the prevalence of pathogenic bacteria. Diversity of bacteria is a key element to gut health and the most diverse probiotics are from raw and organic traditionally fermented fruit and vegetables as well as fibre and being in a diverse range of natural environments.
Research studies regarding the benefits of probiotic consumption:
A study published in 2018 in the journal Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology states “the human gut microbiota is an important environmental factor for human health with evolutionarily conserved roles in immunity, metabolism, development, and behavior of the host.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5995450/
In regards to immune health “probiotics showed therapeutic potential for diseases, including several immune response-related diseases, such as allergy, eczema, viral infection” –https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/
Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms “improve the gut mucosal immune system by increasing the number of IgA(+) cells and cytokine-producing cells in the effector site of the intestine.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24499072/
Probiotic Immunomodulation in Health and Disease – “Several studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria in boosting a nonspecific immune response.” https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/2/403S/4686432
Live probiotics can re-balance the gut microbiome and modify immune system response – “The data showed that feeding the microbiome results in changes to the gut flora as well as a positive anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory effect.” https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/chp-lpc111918.php
Probiotics can help fight the symptoms of the common cold. Study found that “students who took the probiotic recovered 2 days sooner than those who didn’t (four days vs. six days) and symptoms were 34% less severe. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162335.htm
Some beneficial bacteria in probiotics can actually hinder your health rather than help it. For example if you already have an abundance of those species it can crowd out other benefitical organisims.
I recommend getting your gut microbiome tested so you can find out which probiotics are going to specifically help you. You can find out more about microbiome tests here.
What is your experience with taking probiotics? Let me know in the comment section below.
If you want to improve your gut health book an appointment with me, a gut health specialist who is a university qualified holistic nutritionist.
Magne, F., Gotteland, M., Gauthier, L., Zazueta, A., Pesoa, S., Navarrete, P., & Balamurugan, R. (2020). The Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes Ratio: A Relevant Marker of Gut Dysbiosis in Obese Patients?. Nutrients, 12(5), 1474. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051474
By nutritionist Chrissy
Chrissy is a university qualified nutritionist who graduated with honours at La Trobe University in Melbourne. One of her favourite hobbies is to read the scientific literature on how to optimise health. When she’s not reading, writing or working she’s with her 3 children outdoors, practicing yoga, jogging or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Chrissy has overcome some debilitating chronic health issues (low mood, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, very bad acne to name a few) with the power of nutrients and correcting gut health, at 39 she now feels better than she did in her 20’s.