The Gut Microbiome is one of the most fascinating and rapidly expanding research areas in modern science. Its a fascinating moment in history, where microbiologists are changing the way doctors look at the body and study human disease.
The gut microbiome consists of the collection of microorganisms that inhabit our gastro intestinal tract. It consists of over 100 trillion bacteria, with the microbiome cells making up 90% of the cells in our body (reference) and carrying 150 times as many genes as those contained in our human genome (ref)! They are amazingly intricate and complex.
Contrary to historical attitudes, microorganisms and bacteria are not all dangerous, but are actually critical components of a healthy gut and a healthy body.
Through evolution, the human host and its microbes have developed a complex co-dependent relationship in which microbes regulate the normal development and function of our digestive system (cite). This co dependant relationship has led to additional relationships between microbial communities and the human host that extend beyond digestive function. Scientists are finding that changes in the composition, function and dynamics of the microbiome can increase susceptibility to several systemic diseases.
The health of our gut microbiome has been associated with diseases such as:
Inflammatory bowel disease – eg Crohns disease, Ulcertaive colitics
The quality and quantity of our gut microbiome influences our health. Specific types of microorgansims are found to be significantly higher in people with certain diseases. Similarly the lack of microorganism diversity in the guts of unhealthy individuals is believed to be associated with their lack of health and more specifically obesity (cite). Studies have found a causal relationship between changes in gut microbiota compoisition and obesity development. This has shown that the obese phenotype can be transferred by the microbiota and that the obese microbiome has an increase capacity to harvest energy from the diet (cite).
Factors which influence the gut microbiome include our diet, stress, probiotics, age, antibiotic use, our genetic make up, where we live in the world and our mode of delivery at birth (ie caesarean section or natural delivery). Many of these factors are amenable with lifestyle and intervention.
Recent evidence strongly suggests that in the near future, we will be able to use individual microbiota profiles in clinical practice as biomarkers for patients gut health in order to predict the risk of developing certain diseases (ref). Further research into gaining greater understanding of the genetic consistency and metabolic potential of the microbiome is underway to understand how its mechanisms may related to human health and disease.
This knowledge can provide exciting new opportunities for improving human health. The manipulation of gut microbiome may play a significant role in restoring a healthy balance and potentially even identifying early risk indicators for specific diseases in individuals (cite).
As an Integrative doctor we now have microbiology labs available to identify the vast array of microbioorganisms within your gut. Testing can give us detailed information about the specific types of organisms and the amount within your system. As doctors we can interpret and understand which organisms are out of balance, the diversity of your microbiome and how it contributes to your illness.
Further information is available amongst thousands of research papers printed and ongoing into the gut micrbiome and advances in technology. Alternatively, feel free to bring up questions and your curiosity with Dr Anjana at your consultation, and let her collate and interpret these research articles to discuss where the gut micrbiome research leading us in modern day medicine.