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Tiny But Mighty: The Microbiome

Ten years ago, it’s unlikely that you had heard of the gut microbiome—the microbes in your intestines—unless you were a scientist in the field.

Today, many nonscientists, especially those concerned about their well-being, are aware of these tiny organisms. What’s more, we now realize that we “have distinct microbial communities throughout our entire bodies,” says Jessica Finlay, PhD, coauthor (with her father, microbiologist B. Brett Finlay, PhD) of The Whole-Body Microbiome (The Experiment).

There are ways to show your microbiome some love. Jessica Finlay recommends regular exercise and eating “a balanced diet filled with fiber (such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and berries), fermented foods, and limited meat and refined sugars.”

There is still so much scientists need to learn about our diminutive passengers. “One important area of research moving forward is figuring out specific microbial genes and mechanisms responsible for particular effects in and on our bodies,” says Jessica Finlay. “We need more studies and data.”

Fortunately, many ongoing studies are revealing how extensive the microbiome’s effects really are.

The Microbiome and Digestive Well-Being

The best-studied aspect of microbiome health is how these organisms work with the cells that line the GI tract

This interplay is crucial for two reasons: One, “the majority of the food we eat simply cannot be broken down without microbes,” as the Finlays put it, and two, probiotic microbes can crowd out disease-causing pathogenic types.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Drugs besides antibiotics can disrupt the intestinal microbiome. Chemotherapy agents, for instance, have been found to affect the kinds of organisms that predominate in the gut.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

The Finlays say that helpful organisms also interact with the mucus that lines the GI tract; a thick layer has been linked to better digestive health.

On the other hand, an unhealthy gut with a thin mucus layer may become “leaky” and let unwanted substances into the bloodstream.

The Microbiome and Weight Regulation

Gut microbes appear to influence body weight. This linkage starts early; according to a study in the journal mBio, the composition of a child’s microbiome at age two is associated with body mass at age 12.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

There are several patterns in which body fat is deposited, with abdominal obesity linked to a greater risk of metabolic disease.Studies done in sets of twins, one of which in each set had abdominal obesity, have found differences in gut microbe composition to play a role in the development of belly fat.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

The Microbiome and Neurological Function

Scientists have discovered that microbes in the intestines can “talk” to the brain through the gut-brain axis via the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the colon.

Besides influencing this nerve directly, the gut microbiome can also make neurotransmitters and other substances that affect the brain.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Some studies have found that the gut microbes of people with depression include more harmful species. What’s more, the Finlays point to research linking antibiotic usage, which is known to alter the microbiome, with an increased risk of depression.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

The microbiome appears to influence the brain in other ways. For example, studies have been done on a possible link between gut microbe composition and dementia.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

The Microbiome and Reproductive Wellness

We have long known about another microbial community outside of the intestines: the organisms that help determine vaginal health.

For years, researchers thought that this microbiome was dominated by species from the Lactobacillus family, which produces the acid environment that helps prevent infection. However, the Finlays say, we now know the vagina hosts “a complex ecosystem of more than 200 bacterial species.”

The Microbiome's Far-Reaching Influences

It seems counterintuitive to think microbes would have anything to do with skeletal or heart health, but they do.

“Scientists are beginning to formally examine how the microbiome plays a role in osteoporosis,” say the Finlays. A study published in the American Journal of Pathology found that disruption of intestinal microbes by antibiotics led to increased activity of osteoclasts, the cells that trigger bone breakdown.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

What's more, a Journal of Physiology study has found that age-related changes in the microbiome can lead to declining blood vessel health.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.

The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

 

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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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