The gut microbiota, the best ally for an optimal health
Updated: Jun 22
I am fascinated by the gut microbiota and the wonders it does to our bodies. In this blog, I will share some interesting things about gut microbiota and why some foods are super important to add to your and your kid´s diet.
I will be honest with you, I was a peaky eater when I was a child. I remember how meals were truly drama at my house until I became older. I was very sensitive and not a big fan of textures, especially juice with pulp. I hated to find the pulp and I tried to filter it with my teeth. But this scene always finished the same way: my mum saying out loud “Don’t filter the juice!! You will lose the fibers!”.
The famous fibers. We all know they are super important but when asked why we can just say: “because your tummy needs them”. Do you want to upgrade your speech towards your children whenever they filter their juice? Keep reading, here I will introduce you to the amazing and fascinating gut microbiota.
Half human and Half Bacteria
Millions of organisms are present in our body: bacteria, fungi, or even viruses. Each of them lives in a certain body part or defined space, and it’s what we call a Microbiota. In our bodies, we have the Oral Microbiota, the Skin Microbiota, the Vaginal Microbiota, and the most famous one: the Gut Microbiota.
The gut microbiota gets its notoriety because it has the biggest population of microorganisms, especially, bacteria: nothing more and nothing less than 100 trillion bacteria. That is so much that we can say that more than half of us, is not human. Yes, you read it right, now you could say to your kids they can join the Avengers! They are like Hulk!
Going back to these tiny amazing organisms, they are present all over our body, but more concentrated in our colon, which has very suitable conditions for them to live, different than the stomach for example, which is very acidic.
Not all microorganisms that get to our body are beneficial to us
And these microorganisms, are all of them good? Unfortunately, not. Some of them, called opportunistic pathogens, are microorganisms that wait for the right occasion, like when we get an infection. As an example, when your child receives treatment for pneumonia and takes antibiotics, the antibiotics kill the bacterium that is causing pneumonia but also bacteria from the Gut Microbiota. In this case, the population of the good bacteria is reduced and these opportunistic bacteria take advantage of it and start messing everything up promoting digestive problems like diarrhea. The opportunistic pathogens are also killed by antibiotics, but as you know, you need fewer bad guys to produce a bad effect and many good ones to prevent it.
The other potential situation is when a bacterium from the colon goes to a different place in the body or when we ingest food contaminated with animal feces. Both cases could be starred by the bacterium Escherichia coli. E.coli is a bacteria that lives peacefully in our gut, but when it moves away from the colon to another part of the body such as the urinary tract, it will cause an infection. The same will happens if we eat food contaminated with animal feces, it might cause severe intoxication.
The Gut Microbiota has many functions within the body
Our bodies and our bacteria have a symbiotic relationship, which means that we provide something positive to each other, enabling us to live in harmony. We provide food and habitat to the different bacteria and they do several positive things to our bodies such as:
Protect our intestines: they prevent the colonization of bad bacteria, parasites, and viruses by covering our intestinal surfaces and preventing them to enter.
Support good mental health: They have a direct line of communication with our brain via the vague nerve constituting what is called the Microbiota Gut-Brain axis. The gut-brain axis connects the emotional centers of the brain with the intestinal functions and the gut microbiota produces compounds that are sent to the brain which helps maintain good mental health.
Help in our digestion: They ferment carbohydrates that our body cannot digest, like fibers or resistant starch, producing short-chain fatty acids which have 3 main functions in our bodies:
They are the food for our intestinal barrier cells. When these cells don’t get enough short-chain fatty acids they get weak and their function to prevent pathogens to enter the bloodstream is not adequately performed, leading to diseases, infections, and diarrhea.
They give signals to our bodies' immune cells to protect against inflammation - short-chain fatty acids are like a coach that tells our immune cells how to act.
They give an extra energy boost to our bodies.
With all that I want to say is that when we eat fiber, we provide food to the gut microbiota and if we keep it healthy, it will provide us with several health benefits. But, if not, it could lead to some undesirable consequences. With that being said, what can we do to keep our gut microbiota healthy? Which foods are the best ones?
Stay tuned to our blog, we will answer these and many other questions about the gut microbiota as we will continue to dive into the depths of our gut... Meanwhile, make sure your kid doesn’t filter the pulp of the orange juice! We want a healthy and happy gut microbiota!