What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is a collection of genes from the trillions of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that live on and inside our body. The microbiota refers to the specific microorganisms in a specific environment (like the skin microbiota or the gut microbiota).
These two words are often used interchangeably. More and more, we are learning that these microbes have co-evolved with us to play fundamental roles in normal brain development, metabolism, and function.
How does the microbiome compare to the human genome?
We have 30 trillion human cells, but 39 trillion microbial cells. What’s even more interesting is when we sequence the genome, they found that we had 20,000 human genes and 2-20 million microbial genes. This means at best, we have about 1% human genes in our body!
How do these bugs get inside us?
The in utero environment is a sterile environment without bugs; this is where a human baby is first created. However, when a child passes through a birth canal and is breastfed, that is where the microbiome starts. It may not be a coincidence that the vaginal canal co-evolved next to the rectum. This is actually critical to the life of a child. It has been shown that kids who were delivered by C-section or babies who don’t get breastfed, they are more prone to diseases (such as asthma, allergies). If a C-section is necessary, a vaginal swab is usually taken from a mother’s vaginal canal to be placed on a child’s face and mouth so that the microbiome can develop.
What is the brain-gut connection?
In respect to the microbiome, the gut can affect the brain, immune system, metabolism — the main mechanism is through activating the vagus nerve. Additionally, the brain can also affect the gut. The microbiome can be affected in people under high stress. Inside our gut, there is all these microbes, a nice mucus layer that protects us from the outside world, and the muscle walls of the gut. In times of high stress, these mucus layers actually begin to break down and antigens from the bacteria actually penetrates into the muscle wall and therefore into our circulation. So this barrier is broken down, leading to a phenomenon called LEAKY GUT.
Lean more about LEAKY GUT.