Last month, the Gut Microbiota for Health (GFMH) organized in Washington a global Summit on the Gut Microbiome in Precision Nutrition & Medicine. The nutritionnist Ximena Lopez visited the Summit and accepted to answer a few questions about microbiote, health and nutrition.
1. What is the microbiota? And what does the intestinal microbiota refer to?
It is the set of good microorganisms that live in different places and need a host to live, as in the human body. The intestinal microbiota is found in the gastrointestinal tract, mainly in the colon and its richness and diversity can be influenced from the first 1000 days of life, with an impact of environmental factors which include the type of birth, breastfeeding and feeding, and then establishes itself as a unique imprint throughout life.
2. What are prebiotics and probiotics?
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that if consumed in sufficient quantities can offer a health benefit and can be consumed in foods such as yogurt or kefir (when added in a specific way). Prebiotics are the food of probiotics which are mainly fiber and antioxidants (phytonutrients).
3. What foods are recommended to take care of our microbiota?
You can include more fiber in your diet, around 25 – 30g, , which can be achieved through the inclusion of more plant-based foods to your diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains). Consumption of Fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir constitute an important daily intake of probiotics, which brings exclusive benefits for our digestive health.
4.Why is it important to take care of the balance of bacteria?
Because the balance of bacteria in our intestine helps us have a better digestion and overall health. Now we know that, if we do not have healthy eating and resting habits, the microbiota has an alteration and a common symptom is the increase in the production of sulfuric acids that causes the bad smell of gasses.
5. What can be one of the functions of these good bacteria in our body?
Bacteria are promoters of molecules that may be superior to the effect of drugs. We are studying how these affect the metabolism and immunity of different people in order to use them as therapy or treatment for certain diseases.
6. Why taking care of our intestinal microbiota is taking care of our health?
Because it has been demonstrated that the largest number of neurotransmitters responsible for well-being and happiness are produced here. 70% of the immune system is housed here. The pandemic has highlighted the great importance of taking care of our immune system. In that respect, Covid has been shown that gut microbiota composition reflects disease severity.
7. Are all the strains of bacteria that exist in the gut known?
It is a world in constant study and here we harbor more than 30 trillion microorganisms so it is complicated to know each of these, especially because we each have a unique microbiota. What has been done, however, is creating a bank of strains that are in extinction due to the changes induced by the so-called Western lifestyle and it is freely available so that scientists can continue doing research and discovering more wonders of this organ.
The microbiota: a key organ for our health and well-being
- The microbiota coexists with food and not with specific nutrients.
- Fermented dairy products support the diversity of our microbiota
- A high-fiber diet may slow tumor growth
- Balancing the microbiota helps improve glucose response
- Fecal transplantation holds new promise for diseases such as colitis
Ximena Lopez is a Functional and Clinical Nutritionist, specializing in digestive health, probiotics and microbiota.
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