Welcome to post #1 in my 4-part Gut Health series! I am honoring colon cancer awareness month by sharing updated information regarding nutrition and food for a healthy colon.
[FYI I presented an hour long webinar discussing this topic, and you can find the recording and suggested resources here: www.cancerdietitian.com/guthealth.]
Today’s topic is an overview regarding the basics of gut health, including understanding what the “microbiome” is and how digestion works. Let’s get to it!
The Microbiome and Digestion
What is gut health? You may have heard the term “gut health” a lot recently as it has become a hot topic in the health and wellness industry in the past few years. The good news is, researchers have been studying the human microbiota and GI tract for years (centuries?!?).
Before we can understand how the gut affects our health, we must first understand the human microbiome.
What is the microbiome?
The microbiome consists of many bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that live in our body. Microbial cells are primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and make up the human microbiome.
These microbes aid in our bodies immune function, metabolic function, protect us from diseases, and play an active role in our general health. In fact, a healthy adult should have around 1000 different species of bacteria present in their gut.
How is the microbiome created?
The first microbiota is introduced when we are born. Infants will have a different microbiota based on their mother’s bacteria. Bacteria that are present in the infant’s daily environment continue to diversify the gut as we grow, such as skin-to-skin contact.
Fun Fact! –> The microbiome of breastfed infants will be modified due to components found in the human breast milk. As a child ages, everything from the food they consume, to the environment they play in, affects and builds the unique human microbiome. Interaction with family, pets, and new places all have a role in creating the microbiome.
Throughout life, the microbiome is altered and diversified by illness, diet, and antibiotics. The gut microbiome is continuously changing according to exposure throughout life. 1/3 of the microbiome is specific to us as humans, while 2/3 seem to be individual and influenced by many factors.
Factors that Influence the Microbiome
- birth and feeding method
- physical activity
- gut motility (how quickly or slowly food moves through your intestines)
Gut health is a strong component of a healthy digestive system. The digestive tract is made up of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and the GI tract.
The GI tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and the anus. The GI tract is where the microbes are located. In the small intestine, enzymes and digestive juices break down food into digestible components. Most nutrient absorption happens in the small intestine.
In the large intestine, water is absorbed and stool is formed. Microbes in the GI tract are mostly present in the large intestine (aka colon).
In conclusion, the gut microbiome is a complex and diverse ecosystem comprised of many components. It is affected by many factors throughout life and plays a major role in immunity, digestion, and health.
In our next blog post we will discuss what makes up a healthy gut!
- The Role of the Microbiome in Health & Disease
- The Impact on Gut Integrity and Host Health
- How to Define the Microbiome
- Shaping the Microbiota by Breastfeeding – Allergy Prevention
- Digestion & Disease – Restoration of a Healthy Composition
- The Digestive System
-Julie & The Interns