What do we know about the newly discovered organ of the human body?
Let me introduce to you to the newly discovered 2-3 pound organ in our body. It is called the microbiome.It is the microbiome. The microbiome comprises of about 10-100 trillion bacteria residing all over our body including the gut, skin, vagina and lungs. Most of them reside in our gut. We have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells and this means that we have 100 times more bacterial genes than human genes. There are many diverse groups of these bacteria and each one us has our unique set of bacteria or our unique microbiome.
There are 3 types of bacteria in our gut
Symbionts-These bacteria live in our gut and perform different functions for us like making vitamins in exchange for the food that they receive from us.
Commensals-These bacteria are neither beneficial nor harmful. They live peacefully but have the capacity to turn into symbionts or parasites.
Parasitic-These bacteria are toxic and produce disease
These bacteria affect each and every system of our body.
Hormonal System: These bacteria secrete hormones, they regulate the expression of our hormones and they are affected by our hormones. They have been linked to development of type 1 and type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and Fatty liver disease.
Gastrointestinal System: Changes in gut microbiom has been linked to inflammation in the gut leading to diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Heart and Blood vessels: These bacteria have the capacity to change the composition of our blood and urine. In doing so it affects development of heart disease.
Brain: We have a lot of evidence indicating that when we are stressed, then the composition of our gut microbiome changes which then influences our behavior as well as leads to stress related disorders such as depression and anxiety. Autism has also been linked to changes in the microbiome.
Immune Function: The microbiome has been found to play an important role in altering our immune system including both our innate (non-specific defence mechanism) as well as adaptive immunity (Defense mechanism targeted towards specific antigens foreign to the body) . It has been shown that changes in certain commensal bacteria leads to development to autoimmune diseases like multiple Sclerosis.
Do you know what your gut microbiome looks like? There are stool tests that can be done to look at your microbiome and to identify the ratio of symbionts to parasitic bacteria in your gut. Clearly if we have chronic illness then we need to pay attention to our microbiome as a possible source of the problem. Also the presence of gut symptoms needs to be taken seriously because it may be an early indicator of potential future problems.
Nadia Ali, M.D, M.B;B.S, MPH, ABHIM, FACP
Integrative Medicine, Functional Medicine, Ayurveda, Mind Body Medicine, Aromatherapy and Nutrition Consultant
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