We humans have long standing relation with bacteria. It is everywhere – in us, on us and around us. Yet bacteria have always been linked to all the wrong reasons. From deadly and devastating epidemics of plague to minor flu and cough, it is these high adaptable and intelligent microorganisms that have been blamed.
But the truth is that there are more than 10,000 odd varieties and millions of these microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi and alike collectively forming a community called the microbiome that finds home in our body and are highly crucial to our survival and influences every aspect of human health from weight to reproduction and mood.
Wherever they form their community in our body they are known as microbiota of that area like – the gut microbiota, vaginal microbiota, oral microbiota and the skin microbiota.
Now, you must be wondering…….
What is the role of these microbiomes in our body?
These communities of microbiomes in our body are responsible for various critical functions that are not only important for our wellbeing and good health but are pivotal for our survival as well.
Be it our immunity or our skin, the microbiome standardizes certain essential parameters that judge that whether or not something is good or bad.
It helps maintaining a coordination within itself to ensure that external and harmful pathogens are not allowed to invade and even the host system does not harms itself. It is in a way a multiple line of defence, proving as a barrier that modifies and adopts itself to suit every individual needs and surroundings.
Out of all, our gut microbiota has a unique role to play – the breakdown and the absorption of nutrients from the food that we eat. In the case of its improper or poor functioning our body would not be able to digest and absorb the much critical nutrients it needs for its functioning.
Our environment and dietary exposure right from our birth (more precisely when we are developing inside our mother’s womb) develops an ecosystem that is responsible for the development of our microbiome and our health for the rest of our life.
What exactly is gut microbiota?
The gut microbiota, also known as the “gut flora” is the name of the community of microbes (microorganisms as mentioned earlier) living in our intestinal tract.
The gut microbiota contains billions and trillions of `microorganisms including around more than 1000 varieties of bacteria. One out of three portion of the gut microbiota is common in all individual and two parts of the same is unique to every individual, just like an identity for each person.
As in the name, gut microbiota stages itself in our gut – the intestine. Some of the various important functions of the gut microbiota area:-
- It helps in the digestion of those foods that our small intestine or our stomach are unable to digest.
- It helps in protecting from the attack of other harmful microorganisms and thereby maintains the health of the intestine.
- It helps in the production of some key vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin K.
- It helps the immune system to perform optimally and provides a barrier.
- A proper digestive functionality is the result of a healthy and balanced gut microbiota.
People often asks about the role or probiotics and prebiotics in gut microbiome?
Almost every one of us never understand the importance of digestion until we start facing problems related to it. Be it that extra heavy and rich meal that causes us to feel bloated and tired or be overweight (which is often related to poor digestion) or acid reflux (the feeling of burning sensation that reaches the throat from the stomach after we dine) or may be something else, we never realize the all-important role that digestion plays until we face these issues.
Pre and probiotics are two things that work together in promoting good bacteria in our gut and thereby our good health. Together they produce good bacteria and gets rid of bad bacteria in the digestive tract.
Probiotic bacteria is bacteria that are friendly. These are found in fermented foods, the most common source being yogurt and yogurt drinks.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not actually bacteria but are foods for the friendly bacteria.
The fact is that probiotic bacteria does not grow well inside the gut and is easily eliminated of its own and hence when we eat foods or drinks that contains them, we are actually aiding the gut with good bacteria to develop and flourish. Whereas prebiotics are just like water to plants. They feed the probiotic bacteria with essential foods to develop.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are very important dietary need of the health of our gut without any doubt. These days more and more of these foods and drinks are being introduced in the market. With minimal effort and little consciousness we can easily ensure that we get the combination of the two in our diet to improve and maintain a healthy gut and thereby a great health.
Dr. Prakash Chandra Bhatt
Dr. Prakash Chandra Bhatt is the founder of Billion Cheers and Fermentis Life Sciences, a passionate research scientist with doctorate in pharmaceutical biotechnology from Jamia Hamdard University. His expertise lies in developing innovative products and processes by application of biotechnology, nanotechnology and fermentation technology. He is a proud recipient of Young Scientist Award and research grant from the Department of Science & Technology of Government of India.
He says, “Being a biotechnologist by profession I am convinced that microbiome is the most significant part of our body and plays a key role in our health. i believe that the focus of the future research for human health will revolve around microbiome.”