After deconstructing the phrase ‘gut microbiota’, its meaning makes perfect sense. ‘Micro,’ a term used to describe something that is extremely small when paired with ‘biota,’ a word describing the plant or animal life of a select habitat, more or less relates to the countless microorganisms that comprise the intestinal region of the body. If we did have to assign a number to the “countless microorganisms” that reside in this area, it would be in the tens of trillions. What makes these trillions of microorganisms so important is how they impact our body collectively.
Your Unique Identity
From the moment you are born, you begin developing your own special identity – your gut microbiota is no exception. Out of the 1000 different species of bacteria that comprise this environment, “one third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, while two thirds are specific to each of us,” reported Gut Microbiota World Watch. But what’s an already impressive statistic offers even more interesting insights about our daily lives.
Don’t let the name ‘gut microbiota’ trick you into thinking that these microorganisms strictly influence your intestinal health. Countless research studies suggest that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, just hours ago, a press release announced that these trillion-some microorganisms could actually impact your BBB (brain-blood barrier), an extremely crucial component affecting what enters and is prevented from entering our brains.
So, what exactly does this discovery about the gate keepers of the brain mean for us?
Surprisingly, this isn’t a revolutionary idea. Previous studies have theorized that there is a direct gut-brain connection; however, it was never confirmed. In a groundbreaking study that was spearheaded by a team at the Karolinska Institutet, it was confirmed that “the findings provide experimental evidence that our indigenous microbes contribute to the mechanism that closes the blood-brain barrier before birth.” What’s most interesting about this study is that amongst the two groups of test mice – those exposed to maternal gut microbiota throughout pregnancy and those birthed from germ-free mothers – the first group fared better.
In fact, the researchers actually observed a blocked entrance of identifiable pathogens from the bloodstream into the brain in the first group of mice. Furthermore, the test mice that were not exposed to bacteria during pre-birth development demonstrated higher levels of compromised BBB function. A promising finding from this study is that the poor BBB performance observed in the test mice could be enhanced from the grafting of “normal” gut microbes.
In addition to promoting improved brain health, our gut microbiota helps facilitate other important bodily functions. Given that our gut microbiota is comprised of the microorganisms in the intestines, it seems obvious that a well-balanced gut microbiota promotes healthy digestion. On the same token, a gut microbiota that is “out of synch” can prompt “dysbiosis,” the phenomenon that results in a handful of digestive complications, as well as allergies and diabetes.
How to Nourish Your Gut Microbiota
In the event that your gut microbiota does get out of balance, there are ways to return things to a balanced existence. Research today suggests that both prebiotics and probiotics can help balance your gut microbiota. While prebiotics help feed the healthy bacteria, probiotics work to increase the presence of beneficial microbes in this region. In addition to having the ability to modulate the gut microbiota, researchers have observed a number of benefits – namely the prevention of pathogenic bacteria overgrowth, reduced “competition for nutrients” and “the production of antimicrobial compounds (defensins),” reported an article from Genes & Nutrition.
Protect Your Gut Microbiota
Although a great deal of your gut microbiota is developed in your earliest years, it is crucial to feed this important ecosystem the nutrients it needs to deliver healthy performance over the course of your lifetime.