Hey team! I find the human microbiome completely and utterly fascinating! It’s an area of interest for me and with good reason. For anyone that isn’t too familiar with what the microbiome actually is, here it is in a simple little nutshell; a microbiome is a collection of microbes, including bacteria, yeasts and fungi that reside in a particular environment. So, in this case that environment is us!

These microbes reside within us – there are approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms residing within the gastro-intestinal tract {1} and on us – our skin has a diverse range of micro-organisms whose key function is to ensure that the structure and integrity of the skin barrier remains in tact {2}. The micro-organisms that make up these hundreds of trillions of microbes is predominately bacteria and different bacteria have different functions within the body.

In my opinion, the human microbiota is governing our health status. More and more research is confirming that this is actually the case. Modern science is calling the human microbiome the virtual organ of the body – isn’t that mind blowing?! I completely geek out on this šŸ¤“

So, without further ado, here are 5 things you may not know about the human microbiome.

1. Our DNA is more bacteria than human!

The human genome consists of about 23,000 genes. The human microbiome encodes over 3 million genes! {1} The majority of our genetic make up is bacterial!

2. Certain microbes are involved in the production of important brain neurotransmitters.

There is a bidirectional communication network called the brain-gut-axis and its function is to ensure balance for the brain and the gut. Mental health and wellbeing is related to our microbiome. Certain bacterial strains found within the gut are responsible for the production of the neurotransmitters found within the brain. These include serotonin and GABA; which are essential in regulating mood and anxiety {3}

3. Lactobacilli bacterial species help keep our vagina healthy.

Different species of bacteria are abundant in different parts of our body. Lactobacilli species are most abundantly found within the vaginal tract. Therefore, they play an important role in vaginal health. This species of bacteria have an important role of regulating the pH of the vaginal tract by keeping it at a pH of around 3.8-4.4. This pH level inhibits growth of opportunistic pathogens (the unwelcome little critters). Lactobacilli also produce hydrogen peroxide which acts as an anti-microbial {4} Thanks Lactobacilli! This can be a handy tip if you’re stuck on which probiotic supplement to choose – look at what strains are actually in there.

4. Our microbiome can protect against cancer

The gut microbiota play an essential role in the fermentation of indigestible dietary fibres. This process supports the growth of other microbes which produce SCFA’s – short chain fatty acids which are an energy source for colonocytes. These colonocytes induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) of colon cancer cells {5}. One of the reasons why dietary fibre is so important for bowel health!

5. Stress effects our microbiome.

There are many factors that can alter our microbiome, but did you know that stress is one of them? As well as stressĀ  there are dietary choices, alcohol, coffee, refined sugar and certain medications such as antibiotics and the oral contraceptive pill.

So, there you have it! Other than being completely fascinated by these bugs, it highlights how everything is connected and interrelated. Because the vast majority of these bugs reside within out gut, what we put into our bodies are so important. I guess the take home here is that, if our microbiome is really the main driving force of our health and wellbeing and the majority reside within our gut, then diet is of the upmost importance. It’s not about completely avoiding certain foods (let’s face it, we are all human and enjoy a drink or a treat from time to time), it’s about balance. It always comes back to balance. We now know there is a direct link between gut health and mental health so our diet can and does affect our mood.

Written by Vasia; one half of Ulu Hye. I’ve got a Bachelor of Health Science & Naturopathy and I get so much joy out of sharing my knowledge and experiences.

 

1. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179
2. https://www.fxmedicine.com.au/blog-post/microbiome-dermatology-focus-acne
3. https://www.fxmedicine.com.au/blog-post/gut-health-gateway-mental-wellbeing
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5384519/
5. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179

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