If you were asked what the role of your heart, liver, eyes or ears were, I’m pretty sure you would have a good answer. Can the same be said for your microbiome though?

Bacteria is everywhere, existing in harmony with all living things. Plants, for example, are home to lots of good bacteria which help protect them. Should the plant come into contact with harmful bacteria, the naturally residing good bacteria produce toxic chemicals to destroy them which could otherwise have damaged the plant. The same is true for us. Our microbiome (friendly bacteria), produce conditions which are unfavourable for potentially pathogenic or harmful bacteria.

Most people may think that bacteria are bad for us but beneficial bacteria are there to live in harmony with us and protect us. They have huge benefits to our immune system and gut health. Some more benefits and functions of our gut microbiome are listed below:

1. Our microbiome makes important vitamins nourishing our body, such as:

– vitamin K, required for normal blood clotting and reduces risk of bone loss important post-menopausal

– vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which is important in alleviating conditions such as asthma and other respiratory disorders and allergies as well as stress and anxiety

– folate helps in maintaining a healthy heart and lowers the risk of depression. Also, important to decrease the risk of birth defects, therefore vital pre and during pregnancy.

– Vitamin B1 (thiamine) promotes a healthy nervous system, skin, hair, mouth and liver. It also improves the body’s ability to cope with stress.

– Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) proven to help prevent headaches and migraines

– Vitamin B3 (niacin) is important in energy production

– Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) maintains heathy blood vessels and protects eye health

– Vitamin B12 prevents memory loss and lowers the risk of neurodegenerative disease.

Patients with low levels of beneficial bacteria are often deficient in these important vitamins, but by restoring their gut health these vital vitamins can return to normal levels.

2. Our microbiome acts as a barrier to the bad guys.

The beneficial bacteria line our entire intestinal tract preventing harmful chemicals, toxins, pathogens and undigested food into our blood stream providing a natural barrier of entry.

3. Our microbiome kills off harmful bacteria

It keeps us safe by secreting lactic acid into our gut creating an acidic environment in which nasty pathogenic bacteria cannot survive.

4. Our microbiome reduces inflammation

Bacteria feed on undigested fibre, producing something known as short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) which are vital to optimal gut health. SCFA’s protect our gut lining reducing inflammation.

5. Our microbiome controls our immune system

It does this by communicating with immune cells, controlling how our immune system works.

6. Our microbiome reduces the risk of depression and other mental health conditions

90% of our body’s serotonin (happy hormone) is made by these beneficial bacteria, therefore our microbiome plays a vital role in reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.

7. Our microbiome helps in regulating our weight

Beneficial gut bacteria affects our hunger and satiety hormones as well as fat storage hormones. Beneficial bacteria also reduce cravings for sweet, starchy foods.

Modern day society effects our microbiome due to an increase in processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, bottle fed babies as well as a decrease in exposure to probiotic rich foods.

If your microbiome is unbalanced and you don’t have the necessary levels of the healthy guys to look after you, it can manifest in a number of different ways, such as eczema, asthma, unexplained weight gain or difficultly in losing weight or an autoimmune condition such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis to name a few.

To find out if you would beneift from a gut reboot, read next week’s blog post on ‘HOW DO I KNOW IF MY GUT BACTERIA IS HEALTHY’. If you can’t wait that long then please do email me at naomi@gutnutrition.co.uk