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What we do and don't know about gut health

Gut microbiota

Gut microbiota has a major role to play in the health and function of the GI tract, with evidence that conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often coincide with altered microbiota. But it also plays a much wider role in our health, and this is largely determined in the first few years of life.

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What we do and don't know about gut health

What we do and don't know about gut health

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190121-what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-gut-health

bbc.com

5

Key Ideas

Western vs. Mediterranean diet

Western diet, typically high in animal fat and protein and low in fibre, increases the risk of cancer. The Mediterranean diet is high in fibre and low in red meat and has been likened with anti-inflammatory effects and an improved immune system.

This leads us to the conclusion that gut health, favoured by fibre, is a reason for longevity of people following the Mediterranean diet.

Probiotics

There has been a lot of hype around the health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics in recent years, but while they're increasingly used in treatments including inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, several reviews suggest there needs to be further research on which strains and dosages are effective. Recent studies have found some people are even immune to probiotics.

Gut microbiota

Gut microbiota has a major role to play in the health and function of the GI tract, with evidence that conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often coincide with altered microbiota. But it also plays a much wider role in our health, and this is largely determined in the first few years of life.

Antibiotics and gut health

Antibiotics can dramatically alter our gut microbiota. Many of the genes thought to be fixed in certain bacterial environments can start spreading by overuse of antibiotics, which can put pressure on the resistant genes locked up inside a single bacterial cell, causing them to mobilise.

The gut–brain axis

The brain and gut have a strong, two-way communication system Each are essential to the other – studies have found that brain development is abnormal in the absence of the gut microbiome. Gut microbes can produce most of the neurotransmitters found in the human brain, including serotonin, which plays a key role in regulating mood.

 However, research hasn’t yet figured out which exact gut bacterium are crucial for brain development.

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Our Microbiome Affects Our Mood

Our state of mind gets affected by our gut bacteria, which is part of our Microbiome.

Probiotics are live bacterial supplements and Prebiotics are the dietary fiber that promotes bacterial growth. In various experiments, scientists have been able to alter our stress response, anxiety levels and reduce mental health problems by administering Probiotics/Prebiotics in our stomach.

Psychobiotics

Psychobiotics is an upcoming class of medicines geared towards promoting psychological health through the alteration of your microbiota (Gut Bacteria).

Doctors have known since long that certain mental health problems do have their origin in the gut, like inflammation, but a detailed study on mice is now being done, with large-scale studies on humans in the offing.

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The Second Brain In Our Gut

The brain and the gut are linked and in constant communication, and about 100 million nerve cells reside in the gut.

Gut bacteria produce dopamine and similar neurotransmitters that are c...

Take Care Of Your Gut

Exposure and consumption of good bacteria are essential for a balanced brain, as it reduces inflammation and makes us more resilient to depressive states and trauma.

These new findings point towards better ways of treatment for psychiatric disorders. It is essential to take care of your gut bacteria for better mental health and a sharper brain.

False Remedies
False Remedies

Much like a hundred years ago when Spanish Flu killed millions, questionable medicinal concoctions and folk remedies have surfaced across the world, claiming to boost the immune system.

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Immunity-Boosting Is A Myth

Pills, superfoods, and other wellness habits do not boost our immunity as the 'symptoms' which we get when infected are in fact measures taken by our immune system to respond to the foreign pathogen.

Many allergies that people have are a misguided response from the immune system that treat harmless foreign bodies as harmful pathogens.

The Symptomatic Treatment

While over-the-counter medicines provide us with a so-called ‘relief’ by suppressing our fever, runny nose and other ‘symptoms’, these are in fact necessary for the body to get well. The symptoms we want to be stopped are not our enemy:

  • The mucus is helping flush out the pathogen.
  • The fever(heat) makes the body impalpable for it to survive and replicate.
  • The body pain is actually the inflammatory chemicals in your veins, guiding the immune cells like an air traffic controller.
  • The brain is provided with a signal to slow down and let the body recover.

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Microbes

Research found the following difference in stomach microbes of different individuals:

  • Intestinal microbes of people living in villages, having a natural diet, are much more complex, and ...
Wrong Baseline Data

Due to the new kinds of microbes discovered in villagers, all the previous research on diet and microbes, which used the baseline data of the Western civilization microbe, thought to be the healthy and normal microbe, is now incorrect. 

Digesting Fibre

The Western world has stomach microbial communities that could digest junk food and might re-diversify and recover (to a limited extent) if we just ate more whole grains and veggies.

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Overuse of antibiotics
Overuse of antibiotics

Our gut ecosystem is becoming infertile for a multitude of reasons. Overuse fattening up farmed animals, C-sections (in which the baby fails to get a wash of microbes), and our own misuse of antibi...

Brain Efficiency

Our brain weighs just 2% of our body weight, yet consumes 20% of our energy requirements. Even when not active, it will burn roughly 400 calories every day.

The most efficient brains burn the least calories. Efficient brains can save a task quickly and then go into a kind of standby mode.

Balancing Act

Our vestibular system is responsible for balance. A gel is located inside our ears and tells our brain if we are going right or left.

When we spin in a circle, the gel keeps moving when we stop, resulting in disorientation. When the loss of balance is severe, the brain interprets it as poisoning. That is why the loss of balance can result in nausea.

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Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

Everyone has a different requirement for water. Temperature, humidity, size, age, gender and activity have an influence on your fluid needs.

Instead, drink when you are thirsty.

Eggs Harm Your Heart

Eggs have a lot of cholesterol compared to other foods. Although cholesterol in the blood is strongly related to heart disease, eating cholesterol is weakly associated with raising the cholesterol levels in your blood.

Eggs have other heart-protecting properties and eating it probably won't harm your heart.

Cancer or Alzheimer’s From Antiperspirant
  • A chain email in the 1990s was responsible for the false belief that antiperspirant was raising the risk of breast cancer. 
  • When researchers found higher ratios of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, aluminum in antiperspirant was suspect. But it seems aluminum in antiperspirant is hardly absorbed by your skin.

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Best foods don’t have labels
Best foods don’t have labels

Because they are just one ingredient: avocado, lentils, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, etc.

There is no "best diet"

The “best” diet is a theme: an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst. 

That can be with or without seafood; with or without dairy; with or without eggs; with or without some meat; high or low in total fat.

The "Age" of vegetables
The best vegetables are likely to be fresh and locally sourced, but flash frozen is nearly as good (as freezing delays aging). Those “fresh” vegetables that spend a long time in storage or transit are probably the least nutritious.

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Antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics may lose their ability to treat bacterial infections.

Scientists have been warning us about the alarming rise in drug-resistant bacteria, but it can be curbed.

Penicillin
  • Penicillin was the first widely-used antibiotic. It was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist.
  • He noticed that the staph cells he'd been studying in a petri dish had died, and an unusual mold was growing in it.
  • The mould was purified and tested in 1940, and later mass-produced.
  • By 1943, the US was supplying all the Allied forces with this miracle drug, which gave them an advantage in treating injuries.
Existing antibiotics found in the dirt
  • An agriculture student-turned-microbiologist, Selman Waksman, tested 10,000 soil samples over the years.
  • In 1943, he identified streptomycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.
  • Drug companies caught on to it, and commissioned pilots, explorers, and foreign correspondents sent back soil samples as they traveled, collecting dozens of new antibiotics.
  • By 1970, researchers found themselves discovering the same molecules over and over.

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Social Jet Lag

Irregular sleep schedules and broken sleep-wake times are not just an occasional traveling phenomenon, but a wider problem due to our social lives conflicting with our sleep patterns.

Our Internal Alarm Clock

Our internal body clocks are better programmed to help us sleep and wake up, according to our unique body chemistry and energy levels.

Ignoring our internal clocks in favor of the alarm clock, and following our social obligations, sacrificing on sleep, is taking its toll on our health.

Poor Sleep

As our sleep patterns shift, leading to poor or no rest, there are a bunch of diseases that become more likely:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Metabolic imbalances and diabetes
  • Heart disease.

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Fiber gap

Only 5 percent of people in the US meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily target of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. That amounts to a population-wide deficiency.

Benefits of a fiber-rich diet

Eating a fiber-rich diet is associated with better gastrointestinal health and a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, even some cancers. Fiber slows the absorption of glucose — which evens out our blood sugar levels — and also lowers cholesterol and inflammation.

Fiber doesn’t just help us poop better — it also nourishes our gut microbiome.

Processed foods and fiber

Instead of munching on fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, more than half of the calories Americans consume come from ultra-processed foods. On any given day, nearly 40 percent of Americans eat fast food. These prepared and processed meals tend to be low in fiber, or even fiber free. 

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