Are you doing enough to diversify your gut microbiome?

I talk a lot about the gut microbiome and about why I believe taking care of your gut microbiome could be the secret to having good health, so in this blog post I want to explore more about the gut microbiome and share some of my ideas about how you too can make sure that you have a good balance.

What is the gut microbiome?

First of all, let’s take a look at what the gut microbiome actually is. According to Medical News Today, the gut microbiome weighs approximately 2kgs and is made up of tens of trillions of microbes with a broad range of approximately 1000 different bacteria types. [1] Up until recently, the microbes in our gut have been forgotten about and it’s only in recent years that we are learning more and more about how they can influence our overall health. Did you know that your gut microbiome is like your fingerprint? It’s unique to us, and furthermore it could explain a lot about why some of us are struck down by certain bugs, when others can fight them off. Yes sure, the immune system has a lot to do with that, but what if it also came down to how diverse your own microbiome is?

Let’s have a look at where the gut microbiome is located.

According to Healthline website, a large majority of the gut microbiome is located in the cecum; a pocket in the large intestine. [2]

Interestingly, the appendix that is located not too far from the cecum, is now being discovered to not be useless after all. In fact, according to Heather F. Smith, PhD, associate professor at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, she has evolved on the theory that the appendix is more of a safe house for beneficial bacteria’s, and play a crucial role in the immune system [3]. So, could the removal of the appendix mean a reduction in the effectivity of the immune system because of a lack of access to beneficial bacteria? A theory needing more exploration because there is very little research at this stage available on the Internet.

Now we know where it is, let’s have a closer look at bacteria’s and fungi.

Over the years, harmful bacteria’s have been explored in great detail. We have learnt many exciting new things about bacteria and how it can cause disease. A story that I have read about recently during my studies is that of the Cholera Outbreak in London back in the 1800’s. It was such a problem in the Broad Street area that it killed approximately 10,000 in 1853 [2]. Through an analysis of the area and from collecting data, Dr Snow a Doctor in London, theorised that perhaps the problem was coming from an infected water pump. The water pump handle in Broadstreet was taken away and the Cholera infections stopped [3]. My point of mentioning this story is that for many years we have understood harmful bacteria’s but what do we know about beneficial bacteria’s? Very little in fact. It has only been in the last few years that we are starting to understand that there are bacteria’s that are actually good for us. In fact, there are trillions of those too and we are literally surrounded by them every day. They live on us, they live around us and they live with us. I even have beliefs that dependent on where you live will also depend on the different diversity of microbiome you have. For example; my husband works outdoors on a large private estate. He is surrounded by farmland, nature, vegetation, animals and more. His microbiome must be buzzing because he is living and breathing it daily, and in actual fact he rarely has any digestive problems. I always joke with him saying he has an iron gut, because for me my gut is my weakness, but for Simon it’s his strength.

If bacteria’s can make you sick, then surely they can make you well too? And could it be as simple as those who spend a lot of time indoors have a less diverse microbiome than someone like my husband who works outside? When I think about the evolution of humans, we have evolved outdoors, on the land surrounded by natural wild yeasts and abundance of bacteria’s we cannot see. We have also become very clean over the years, whilst that’s not a bad thing, I do believe it’s important to let your children play in the dirt and get their hands grubby. Sure wash them afterwards but even allowing dirt to touch the hands can introduce different bacteria’s.

Understanding bacteria’s and fungus

All bacteria’s and fungi’s can grow. They can colonise and given an opportunity, they can take over their host and cause a whole heap of problems. Looking at nature first, fungus can actually kill a tree. Just like a different strain of fungus that can grow out of control in our bodies (Candida Albicans), the fungus found in nature also feeds off sugar and will disease a tree over time. I find fungus extremely interesting and whilst we hear about the bad stuff fungus does, surely there has to be good stuff too? When I was following my Candida diet, I started to make water kefir juice and ginger ale through the art of fermentation. During fermentation wild yeasts grow, and other yeasts are able to colonise. There are yeasts found in both my drinks, so did the friendly yeasts help to kill off the harmful fungus in my body? These are really important questions that I hope one day to be able to answer during my PHD.

Aside from yeasts and fungus, bacteria’s are the other area of interest for me. I have learned so much about bacteria’s in the past 18-months and up until now, I had never really given much thought about them or how they grow. When I started the business selling bone broth, I had to start my approval process with the council to ensure that I was preparing food in a safe environment. As part of my approval, I had to send my foods off to be checked in the lab for harmful pathogens. This is to ensure that my preparation of food is safe and that I none of the food I make contains harmful pathogens. As a result I had to complete a Level 3 qualification in Food Health & Hygiene. During my course, I learned more about harmful pathogens; how they grow quicker and colonise at certain temperatures, therefore I need to make sure I always cool my food quickly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria’s. Having this understanding of the growth of bacteria’s has now given me a great insight into the colonisation of beneficial bacteria’s. I will explain what I mean. Over the last month or so, I have found it really hard to ferment my ginger ale. I can always get my ginger bugs going but when I add them to my ginger sugar water for the next stage of fermenting, I was finding the fermentation process was barely happening. The room where I carry out second stage fermentation has become a lot cooler. Temperatures are down to about 12 degrees. It suddenly dawned on me the other day, that the reason I am having the problem with colonising the yeasts and bacteria’s is because they are unable to grow quickly in cooler temperatures. Since moving them to a warmer spot in the house, they are now colonising quickly and back to their usual standard. So, just as harmful bacteria’s grow in warmer temperatures, so will the beneficial bacteria’s, that’s because there’s no difference. They are just bacteria’s. The same applies to the bacteria growth in the human body; if the conditions are right, then bacteria will grow.