How we are naturally altering the balance of our gut microbiome?

I often say that the last 25-years have sped up. Evolution seems to have its foot firmly on the accelerator pedal. When I think back to my own life 25-years ago and the Internet wasn’t even invented. Growing up as a child, I remember playing outside in my street where there were few cars. I’d climb trees, play manhunt with my friends on the heath and play games like curbsy.

Now, we live in a very different world and it seems so soon. There are few safe places for children to play outside their houses, because the roads are populated with cars; side roads have become main roads, and many green spaces and heathland have been replaced with houses and businesses. This change in our environment has forced a change in our behaviours; the ever-increasing lack of access to outdoor space and the digital revolution means that many of us are now glued to screens that can entertain us; social media, videos, TV, games and more. And this evolution has seen young children lose the ability to develop their fine motor skills and are now struggling to write properly, as well as generations gaining kilos of weight and developing chronic illnesses that are debilitating people’s lives forcing them to take pharmaceutical drugs to help ease the symptoms of their conditions. In developed countries our entire existence has changed, and with the dooming threat of superbugs that could potentially wipe out countless number of lives, we need to start being responsible and think about our health, and the health of those close to us, and the very simple answer to that is to go back to your roots.

Ever since I started on my microbe journey, I had no idea where it would lead me. I never really thought I’d have an interest in fungi or bacteria but the more and more I learn about the importance of microbes in our existence the more and more I come to the same conclusion, that microbes play a crucial role in our existence on the planet and how we experience our existence. Our species has been on planet earth for approximately 200,000 years [1]. This means that the human body, our soul lives within, has evolved over time from its surroundings; land, water, air. The microbes are responsible for changing our planet through the change of chemical compounds processes such as, photosynthesis and fermentation.

Did you know that Earth first got its oxygen from a bacteria? This bacteria is called cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, and the process of photosynthesis started when this bacteria began to multiply at rapid proportions, and no-one knows why. [2]

Understanding how oxygen was first created on Earth helps us to understand the importance of microbes and bacteria to the health of the human body. Oxygen is our life, without it there is none.

I therefore divert back to the opening of my blog, we now live our lives surrounded by buildings; concrete structures, with little access to plants and trees that are constantly producing oxygen in order for us to be able to breathe. Not to mention, breathing in oxygen means we are breathing in all the microbes we are surrounded by too. If we are outside in nature, then we will fill ourselves with all the natural world we have evolved from, but if we reside indoors then we are breathing in what we are living in; chemicals from household products, mould spores (if in a damp home), other people’s microbes (if they have come from a hospital, then they are carrying microbes from those they have come into contact with, or items they have touched.) This is a classic example of how acute (short term infections and viruses) illnesses are transferred such as the cold virus. Could it be as simple as having a good range of microbes in your gut, then you are more likely to fight off the cold but for anyone who doesn’t have the diversity of the gut microbiome, then are they more likely to get sick? I actually think this statement is fairly true. I myself have spent the last 18-months diversifying my own microbiome by eating a broad range of whole foods, and I have not caught a virus or infection in all that time.

So, if the microbes are so important to our existence, it’s probably a good idea to look at some of the ways in which we are changing our human gut microbiome and why this change is critical to our long-term health.

We are inviting unwanted bacteria into our gut and we are then giving them the opportunity to colonise and grow. Here are some of the ways this is happening:

1) Antibiotics. As wonderful as antibiotics are, because let’s be honest antibiotics are revolutionary for diseases that have been eradicated because of them, but sadly over the last 25-years they have been over-used in humans, animals and plants (yes antibiotics are used in plants to stop infections of crops) [