The gut microbiome consists of millions of bacteria and microorganisms that regulate your digestive health on a daily basis. The different microbes in your intestines are responsible for a variety of functions, and beyond improving gut health, impact many other aspects of your body, such as immune, heart, and brain health.
As you grow older, exposure to different foods and diets diversifies your gut microbiome, and each species of bacteria plays a unique role in helping you digest your food. An unhealthy microbiome is often linked to weight gain or obesity from conditions such as gut dysbiosis, but can be effectively treated by altering your diet and including important ingredients such as probiotics, which are commonly found in dairy products and supplements.
Gut dysbiosis could be a major factor that causes gut conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Unhealthy microbes can produce gas that lead to bloating and can intensify cramps and abdominal pain. Increasing consumption of healthy bacteria such as probiotics can reduce these symptoms and prevent leaky gut syndrome, which is a condition where bacteria/toxins are said to enter the bloodstream and trigger immune responses such as inflammation.
Having a variety of healthy microbes has also been linked to a higher production of good cholesterol, and taking probiotics can lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some bacteria such as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is often produced after the consumption of red meat, can block arteries and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Several studies have found that those with diabetes have a less diverse, more unhealthy gut microbiome, especially in children. Maintaining a healthy diet could potentially help regulate blood sugar and improve the microbiome to reduce risk of diabetes.
Gut health is also extremely interconnected to brain health, and good bacteria in the gut can trigger the production of hormones such as the feel-good hormone serotonin! Serotonin is mainly produced in the gut, and a healthier microbiome could lead to a reduced chance of developing mental health disorders such as depression.