THE MICROBIOTA

The gut microbiota: infinitely small, infinitely promising. A regulator of wellbeing

Functions

Our digestive tract is home to some 100,000 billion bacteria – that’s two to ten times the number of cells that make up our body. This collection of non-pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi constitutes our gut microbiota (formerly called the intestinal flora), which lives in symbiosis with its host – namely, human beings!

Our understanding of its role is continuing to grow constantly, and scientists are now trying to grasp the connections between disequilibrium of the microbiota (dysbiosis) and certain diseases – and, as it turns out, it can have an impact in a much higher number of diseases than we thought.

a metabolic
function

promotes digestion, the fermentation of food, and absorption of nutrients; participates in synthesising metabolites

an immune
function

a shield against pathogenic bacteria

a maintenance
function

maintains the intestinal mucosa

The gut microbiome comprises 100,000 billion bacteria and weighs 2kg

The microbiome, the genome of the gut microbiota, consists of 150 times more genes than in our human cells.

Diseases associated with disequilibrium of the microbiota

The gut microbiota communicates with multiple organs (liver, brain, etc.) and with many systems in our body.

As a result, research is looking into a number of diseases that are probably associated with dysbiosis – disequilibrium – of this bacterial ecosystem. This disequilibrium can be the result of reduced bacterial variety, a loss of beneficial bacteria, or a proliferation of pathogenic bacteria.

This is the case in many autoimmune diseases, psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, diseases of the digestive tract, metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, skin diseases, etc.

• A modern diet low in fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics, and high in sugar and fats
• Stress
• Antibiotics, radiotherapy
• Intestinal infections
• Genetic mutations
• Tobacco

Dysbiosis
=
disequilibrium of the gut microbiota
=
an excess of pathogenic bacteria

• Diabetes
• obesity
• cancers
• cardiovascular, inflammatory, and infectious diseases

Major therapeutic potential

The microbiota promises to be one of the main accelerators of medical research in the 21st century.

A significant number of scientists consider the gut microbiota a “new organ”, the second human genome. Indeed, what we are talking about here is the genome of the 100,000 billion bacteria that we host.

Because of its genetic variety, ability to alter and prevent the development of disease, vital role in our immune system function, and influence on our metabolism, the microbiome represents one of the major advances in current medicine.

Research on the microbiome will make it possible to discover new biomarkers, which are essential for diagnosing numerous diseases and for classifying patients in order to develop more personalised medical treatments.

In addition, this research will allow us to discover new therapeutic avenues that involve altering the microbiome, its bacteria, and the substances they produce (fecal material transplantation, genetic modification, addition of beneficial bacteria, targeted eradication of certain pathogenic strains, etc.), but also restoring a harmonious ecosystem in order to better preserve the “health capital” of all.

A healthy diet for a healthy microbiota

Obesity and excess weight, with the host of diseases they entail, have reached epidemic levels in many countries. Their connection to poor diet has been clearly established.

Beyond excess weight and obesity, many scientists agree that there is a link between dysbiosis and the emergence of certain diseases.

Because of its plasticity, the composition of the gut microbiota can be affected very powerfully through diet. Even short-term dietary changes cause significant changes in its constitution. Even short-term dietary changes cause significant changes in its constitution.

As a result, it makes sense to ask how each person’s diet can be personalised based on his or her original and ideal microbiota. However, currently, the notion of ideal microbiota is still in its infancy and additional research is needed. The concept of personalised nutrition is sure to expand in the coming years as research in the field continues to advance.

Until then, each of us can make substantial changes to our diet to take care of our microbiota, increase its variety, and nourish our beneficial bacteria.

Scientists agree in recommending a varied diet high in fibre and consisting of natural, non-industrially processed products.

Every step towards a healthier diet helps us preserve our “health capital”. We are all active participants in our health, with our diet being a major pillar of wellbeing.

“Let food be thy medicine"

Hippocrate