The Gut Microbiome

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Written By Natalie Mendoza

What is the Gut Microbiome?

The gut microbiome is bacteria that live in the gut and help you digest food and gain nutrients from what you eat. The bacteria are helpful, and millions of different species perform different functions for us. So how exactly do we get our microbes, what should we feed them, and what does the gut microbiome have to do with a person’s health? The short answer is that we get our microbes through the foods we eat and vaginal birth, we should feed them the food we evolved to eat, and absolutely everything.

People acquire the microbes in their gut microbiome in a variety of ways. Humans get their first microbes during vaginal birth from their mothers. This means that people born through a C-Section do not have the microbes that people who were born vaginally got. This means that their gut microbiomes are less diverse. Diversity is a good thing, so it is extra important for people who were not born vaginally to obtain their microbes through other methods. Another way we add microbes to our body is by the things we put in our mouths when we are young. Eating dirt is a great way to get healthy microbes in your body at a young age. Humans also gain and feed their microbes from what they eat. This is why eating the right kinds of food is very important for the overall health and diversity of the gut microbiome. A person should strive to feed their gut the kinds of foods that nourish their microbes.

Antibiotics and Probiotics

Antibiotics are important to fight a bacterial infection; however, antibiotics cannot distinguish between healthy and harmful bacteria in our bodies. That means taking antibiotics kills off many critical bacteria in our gut, responsible for keeping us healthy. That being said, there are times that antibiotics are necessary. When you need to take antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection, take the antibiotics for the full period that your doctor prescribes them to, even if you start to feel better. If you stop, there is a higher chance that not all of the harmful bacteria have been killed, and it will be even harder to kill the bacteria that survived since they are the more resistant ones. It is advised not to give harmful bacteria time to evolve into stronger, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Additionally, take probiotics after taking antibiotics. Probiotics help replenish your gut microbiome and all of the helpful bacteria that were living there. 

Health Associations

The gut microbiome plays a large role in a person’s health. Intestinal dysbiosis is a condition in which a person has a different diversity or composition of microbes in their gut (Harkins et al., 2021). According to the same article, “Intestinal dysbiosis is a consequence of altered diversity, composition or function of the intestinal microbiota. “Such dysregulation of the intestinal microbiota has been implicated in the initiation and perpetuation of a myriad of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including the spondyloarthritides.” (Harkins et al., 2021). The gut microbiome also plays a role in an individual’s immune system. The article Gut microbiota and Covid-19- possible link and implications explain the role a healthy gut microbiome plays in immune responses, meaning a healthier gut microbiome could