The Basics of Gut Health
It’s increasingly clear to many of us that gut health is so much more than just how our tummies feel. We now know that gut health is fundamental to the workings of all of the body’s organs and that the state of our microbiota, or gut flora, has a critical effect on our overall health and wellbeing. BioGaia’s Chief Scientific Officer Gianfranco Grompone, takes us through the basics of gut health.
“Taking care of our microbiotas is like taking care of a garden. You have to make everybody happy, all the plants, and you have to understand the interactions between them. You have to bring a certain type of food for some of them and a different type of food for others.”
Gianfranco Grompone, Chief Scientific Officer
Gianfranco explains that we are all really walking ecosystems: “Our bellies are populated with a huge amount of microorganisms. Bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and parasites. So we are ecosystems. We are not humans, we are microbial ecosystems.”
Microbes live on and within us, mostly in a mutually beneficial relationship. Approximately 90- 95% of these microbes are found in our gut. The gut flora, or microbiota, is like an ecosystem of different microorganisms and consists of trillions of bacteria belonging to thousands of different species.
The microbiota helps us digest food, regulate the immune system, fight harmful bacteria, produce vitamins and other important substances and break down toxins from drugs or other sources. An unbalanced gut flora can lead to a wide range of problems. Everything from stomach issues to skin problems, difficulty sleeping, problems with our well-being and impaired resistance to infections.
“We know that gut health is crucial because when we study people with health conditions like diabetes, depression, or autism, what we find is that their ecosystems are less diverse, and are not interacting in the right way with the immune system. We don’t know yet if this is a cause or a consequence, but we do know that there is a correlation between less microbes, and less bacteria in these patients, and the diseases. So one way to improve health is to improve gut health by adding beneficial microorganisms into the system,” says Gianfranco.
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What are probiotics?
“Probiotics are live microorganisms, so small that we cannot see them with our eyes, and when they are administered in adequate amounts, they confer health benefits. These very small bacteria help us to live better and make our organs function better when we interact with them,” says Gianfranco Grompone, Chief Scientific Officer at Biogaia.
In addition, health benefits should be proven in clinical trials, and probiotic products should contain the same bacterial strain(s) and the same dose that was used in the clinical studies.
In what way do probiotics help our immune system?
Gianfranco explains that “our immune system protects us against invaders, but it also trains different types of cells that function as an alarm system. This alarm system needs to be active at the right intensity and at the right moment, and probiotics train the alarm system to be accurate. They fine tune it. For example they can educate and train the cells in our immune system to recognise the bad guys vs the good guys. So in some words, I always say that probiotics are a little bit like trainers, like super personal trainers for our immune cells.”
Research on bacteria and their significance for our health has exploded in the past decade. At BioGaia, we’ve spent the last 30 years doing clinical research on Limosilactobacillus reuteri.
Read more about our research here.