Micro-organisms are found all over the human body, including the skin, nose, mouth and the gastrointestinal system. In particular the gastrointestinal system is home to an enormous number of micro-organisms; approximately 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) bacteria cells. Amazingly, this figure outnumbers human cells of the entire body roughly 10 times! That means 90% of the cells in the human body are not even human; they’re microbial.
The human microbiota is established in early life, with the foetus in the womb completely sterile and exposure to micro-organisms starting with birth. As the infant makes its passage through the birth canal, it is exposed to its mother’s bacteria, which is then continued with breast feeding. Although the microbiota is established in early life, it can shift throughout life and is influenced by many factors. The human body encounters both good and bad bacteria daily, good bacteria are essential for good health; they are basically any bacteria that helps the helps create an environment for health to thrive. Bad bacteria are the opposite – the body see these kind of bacteria as a threat to your body and the body tries to fight these bacteria away. Of the total bacteria in our bodies, a healthy balance is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria.
What can effects the balance of bacteria?
- Medication use: particularly antibiotics as they are known to not only kill off the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria in your body. The oral contraceptive pill (OCP), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heartburn medications (Nexium) have all been shown to affect gut bacteria.
- Nutrition: diets high in reﬁned carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods has been shown to lead to poor gut bacteria and gut inflammation.
- Chronic stress: studies have shown that chronic stress leads to an imbalance of your gut bacteria as well as the guts microbial diversity which is how many different types of bacteria we have.
- Poor sleep: Research is demonstrating that circadian rhythm disruptions can have negative effects on gut microbiota.
Poor gut health has been associated with:
- Digestive issues – Dysbiosis, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Increased Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut), Food Sensitivities, Constipation and Diarrhoea
- Gastrointestinal diseases – Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac and Ulcerative Colitis
- Neurological disorders – Parkinson and Multiple Sclerosis
- Autoimmune diseases – Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Skins issues – Eczema, Psoriasis and Dermatitis
- Others – Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Obesity and Mental Health
We have recently begun to understand the extent of the gut ﬂoras role in human health and disease. Gut ﬂora promotes normal gastrointestinal function and the digestion of foods, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and helps with production of vital substance such as Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, Folate, Serotonin and neurochemicals.
Here are some simple ways in which you can do to help improve your gut bacteria:
- Probiotic supplements
- Eliminate refined and processed foods
- Stay hydrated
- Eat prebiotic and probiotic foods
- Eat fermented foods
- Manage stress levels
- Remove any potential threats
- Improve you sleep
- Have a well-balanced exercise program
Come in and see our Osteopaths at Absolute Health & Performance in the heart of the Melbourne CBD to help learn more about gut health and if this is an area that need to be improved for your health.
Written by Absolute’s Osteopath Ashley Gudgeon