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Exploring Your Gut Microbiome

Within each of us, a complex ecosystem of microbes thrives, encompassing bacteria, fungi, and even viruses, inhabiting nearly every part of our bodies. 

Researchers continue to unveil the profound connection between our overall gastrointestinal health—our gut health—and these microbes. 

In this blog post, we delve into the bacteria that inhabit our gut microbiome and their vital roles. 

The Bacteria of the Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome consists of six primary types of microbes, each with distinct functions and roles within the human body: 
  • Firmicutes: These microbes break down complex carbohydrates, producing short-chain fatty acids for energy. They also maintain the gut barrier, which helps block bacteria, harmful microorganisms, and toxins from entering the bloodstream, though imbalances are linked to obesity and metabolic disorders. 
  • Actinomycetota: Actinomycetota break down complex carbs and produce vitamins B12 and K2, crucial for calcium absorption and energy generation. They also protect the gut from harmful pathogens. Pseudomonadota: These microbes reduce the gut’s redox potential, important for energy breakdown, storage, and use. They achieve this by producing short-chain fatty acids and breaking down complex molecules, promoting the growth of other beneficial gut microbes. 
  • Fusobacteriota: While these can activate inflammatory responses to combat pathogens, imbalances can lead to inflammation and diseases like periodontal disease. Bacteroides: Bacteroides break down complex carbs, regulate the immune system, and produce vitamins and metabolites essential for gut health. 
  • Other: This category encompasses various microbes that contribute to gut functions, including TM7 (oral bacteria), cyanobacteria, acidobacteria, and verrucomicrobiota.
Visualisation below created by VisualCapitalist shows what lives in your gut microbiome.

Gut microbiome

Dynamic Composition of the Microbiome

The proportions of these microbe populations vary throughout the gastrointestinal tract. For instance, the mouth and esophagus have relatively low microbial populations, with Firmicutes dominating to aid in sugar and carbohydrate breakdown.
 
In contrast, the stomach's harsh environment limits microbial growth, but a small population remains. The microbial population diversifies in the small intestine, with Firmicutes and Actinomycetota dominating. The large intestine sees further diversification, with Bacteroides and other microbes prevailing.
 
These proportions are typical but can vary due to factors like medical history, diet, age, and geography.
 

Section of Gut Microbiome

Exponential Microbial Population (CFU/ml)

Dominant Microbe

Mouth

10⁵

Firmicutes

Esophagus

10⁷

Firmicutes

Stomach

10³

Actinomycetota

Duodenum (Small Intestine)

10³

Firmicutes

Jejunum (Small Intestine)

10⁵

Firmicutes

Ileum (Small Intestine)

10⁸

Firmicutes

Large Intestine

10¹⁰-10¹²

Bacteroides

The Gut-Brain Axis

Beyond the gastrointestinal tract, these microbe populations significantly impact the gut-brain axis. This two-way link between the gut and the brain involves physical pathways and various communication forms, including hormones, metabolism, and immunity.

A distressed gut can signal the brain, contributing to anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental health issues. Conversely, emotions like anger, anxiety, and happiness can impact gut health.

Towards a Healthy Gut

Increasingly, people are recognizing the importance of gut health, often referred to as the body’s “second brain.” Understanding the microbiome has led to insights into the gut-brain axis and connections to various diseases.

This understanding opens new avenues for medicine and healthcare, potentially leading to new treatments for illnesses linked to the microbiome.

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