If you've never heard of the microbiome, you may be wondering what is it? So, let's start there: the microbiome is the collection of the 100 trillion + microorganisms that live in and on your body. These microorganisms live on the surface and in the layers of your skin, in your saliva and oral cavity, in your eyes, and in your gastrointestinal tract (to name a few). Today, we're going to focus in on the gut microbiome - all the microorganisms that live in your mouth through your colon. Microorganisms are not all bad; in fact, many of them are good and essential for human health.
Every one of us has a unique gut microbiome and it is believed that your gut microbiome has impacts on your health - specifically, your digestive, brain, and immune system health. All of the things you have eaten, the antibiotics you've been exposed to... they all play a part in how your gut is structured. Researchers used to believe that the development of your gut microbiome started after birth, but now they believe it begins to happen while you are still in the womb.
Why is the gut microbiome a big deal? Gut microorganisms do a number of things:
1. They produce vitamins that we can't make on our own.
2. They help extract nutrients from our food.
3. They help support immune system and inflammatory responses.
Therefore, it is believed that changes in your microbiome - particularly your gut microbiome - are linked to numerous diseases and metabolic disorders.
There is a great deal of research underway in this area - funded by the government, academia, and the food industry. This includes the National Institutes of Health, Dannon, and the NYU School of Medicine, to name a few. UCLA is researching the interactions between the GI tract and the brain. All of these organizations (and more) are working hard to find breakthroughs in both medicine and agriculture. There is also the Knight Lab at the University of California, San Diego named after Rob Knight.
Who is Rob Knight? If you're interested in the microbiome, you'll want to read up on him. He is pretty fascinating. He is a New Zealand-born and educated (through the Bachelor degree level), but is based in the U.S. He is on the steering committee at the Earth Microbiome Project. This project finds and analyzes microbes on anything - feces, lizards, phones and keyboards, faces - to find links between microbes and health (not just in humans, but in animals as well).
He is also a co-founder of the American Gut Project. This project is far beyond the scope of this blog post, but is very relevant to the digestive health topic. Basically, this project is researching all the different kinds of microbes in each of our bodies, particularly the gut. For the small price of $99, you can get a swab kit in the mail, swab various parts of your body, and send it back to have it sequenced. Your data becomes part of the study, but you also get your results and can compare your microorganisms against those from the rest of the population.
If you want to learn more, Rob Knight did a great TED Talk (How Our Microbes Make Us Who We Are) and you can find the video here.
The bottom line is that we wanted to make sure you were aware that there is a great deal of research being done right now on the gut microbiome. It looks to be one of the biggest food and supplement trends coming down the pipeline. The connection between your gut microbiome and your overall health, your digestive health, your brain health, and your immune health is real. It's impossible to cover all the research in a short blog post, but if you have some spare time to research this topic more online, we encourage you to do so.
We also have a webinar on YouTube on the gut microbiome topic and we also delve into some specific product information on our Good Flora Probiotic, Good Digest Vegetarian Enzymes, Super Enzymes +, and Betaine HCI.