News flash! ... You aren't completely human. In fact you mostly are not human. If you weighed out all of the DNA of a person, by a ratio of approximately 1.3:1 most of our DNA is bacterial....plus there are viruses, and fungi and others. Without this legion of co-habitants one would not thrive, in fact the odds are you wouldn't survive long.
Where do my gut microbes come from? Do I just pick them up from my surroundings?
Partly. But it is more complicated than that. For the most part it is thought that we are sterile when we are in utero, and as we are being born, as we emerge through the birth canal from our mother, we get this handover bacteria, like a big dose of probiotics at birth. Those bacteria are really important for establishing the microbiome of an infant.
Interestingly, a woman's microbiome shifts during pregnancy providing an optimum cocktail of micro-organisms. If you are not born by vaginal delivery, but are born by caesarean section, things start off different. Studies have suggested that these differences could be one of the reasons why babies born by caesarean section have a higher risk of conditions including asthma and type 1 diabetes. That said, doctors have cautioned parents against attempting to seed babies born by caesarean section with vaginal bacteria.
Microbes in breast milk and from the surrounding environment effect the microbiome for the first couple of years, then it usually steadys out.
Our diet continues to shape it, along with drugs we take (antibiotics) and factors such as stress ... so in fact our microbiome remains changeable throughout our lives.
The microbes on the skin are NOT the same as in your gut. In fact your skin, vagina, gut, and other areas of your body all have their own distinctive colonies living on and in them. With that in mind it's a good idea to be aware of what goes on your skin as well as in your stomach!
From type 1 diabetes to depression, from anxiety to obesity. The microbiome has links! While knowledge of the subject is still in it's infancy, you can be sure that a lot of medical and scientific advances are coming from this area of research.
When it comes to weight management and body composition the health, diversity, and function of our gut bacteria affects how much energy we absorb and use. Evidence suggests that bacteria living in the guts of obese people are better at getting energy out of food than the bacteria living in the guts of lean people.
Like it or not we have evolved with our bacterial lodgers and I would say we owe it to our health to treat it well. So how does one treat it well?
Prebiotics are compounds in food ( mainly indigestible fiber from plants) that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.
Some examples of prebiotic foods:
Probiotics are live microorganisms intended to provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.
Some examples of probiotic foods: