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5 Things You Need to Know About Your Microbiome After Watching Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut

Let's start with a whopper of a fact. Did you know there are more microbial cells in your body than human cells? You're thought to be around 53% microbial and 47% human. Although genetically speaking, the human body is over 99% microbial.

If you've watched Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut on Netflix then you'll have heard a lot about microbes. We asked our Gastroenterology Dietitian Dr Sammie Gill to dig into some of the main takeaways on the gut microbiome.

1. The gut microbiome affects the whole body

Your gut microbiome can communicate with other organs in the body – labelled the ‘gut-organ axis’. One way it does this is through the compounds it produces.

For example, gut microbes produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Studies have shown that a proportion of SCFAs enter the blood stream, circulate around the body, and have anti-inflammatory effects on organs such as the heart, kidneys, and lungs.

2. The gut is the second brain

Did you know there is more communication going up to the brain from the gut than down to the gut from the brain? In other words, the brain is more of a ‘receiver’ rather than a ‘giver’ of information.

What’s more, the gut is the only organ in the body with its own complex network of nerves, (called the Enteric Nervous System or ‘ENS’) that work independently (hence why the gut is often labelled the ‘second brain’).

3. Health conditions are related to the gut microbiome

Research has shown the types of microbes in your gut differ depending on whether you have a health condition or not. For example, lower levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii - a key butyrate producer - has been linked with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Another question that often pops up is whether it’s the health condition itself that drives changes in the gut microbiome or is it the gut microbiome that drives the development of the health condition? In other words, which is the cause, and which is the effect? The answer is we don’t really know, but it’s probably a bit of both...

4. Your gut microbiome is unique to you

No two gut microbiomes are identical - each has its own unique configuration of microbes. There is no one size fits all. Even identical twins have different gut microbiomes, despite being genetically identical.

Since everyone’s gut microbiome is different, the way each person responds to the many factors that influence it will be different too. This includes what you eat, how stressed you are, your sleep patterns, how physically active you are, and what medication you might be taking (to name a few).

5. Fibre is king

Fibre is the non-digestible part of carbohydrates. Humans lack the enzymes to break down fibre. Thankfully, your gut microbes are fully equipped for the challenge! Your gut microbes feast on fibre and release beneficial compounds into the gut, such as SCFAs.

Fibre is found in plant-based foods such as wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. There are MANY different types of fibre - inulin, cellulose, pectin, resistant starch, the list goes on…

Each community of microbes in your gut have different ‘preferences’ so keep them well fed with a variety of plant-based foods.

Get 17 essential gut tips you can rely on