Have you ever heard of the intestinal microbiota, also known as gut microbiota? And do you know how important it is for our overall health?
Let’s start with a few definitions. The term microbiota encompasses the entirety of the many microorganisms that reside in a living organism. In the human species, different parts of the body house clusters or bacteria, viruses and fungi: therefore, we can talk about skin microbiota, oral microbiota, vaginal microbiota, intestinal microbiota, and so on.
Gut microbiota, once known as, gut flora, contains tens of trillions of different microorganisms, including about a thousand different species of bacteria with more than three million genes. It is a pretty impressive part of the body, to the point that its weight can reach up to two kilograms.
It is also interesting to notice that about two thirds of the intestinal microbiota are unique and specific for each individual, and that it can change based on lifestyle, diet, stress, and health ailments.
The gut microbiota is contained in the intestines, which, together with the mouth and the skin, is one of the parts of our body that comes in contact with the external environment: as you know, food and beverages reach the stomach and then the intestines, before being expelled from the body through urine and faeces.
How the microbiota influences your health
Now that we have clarified what the intestinal microbiota is, let’s find out why it is so essential for a person’s health.
We have explained that each individual has a different and unique intestinal microbiota, which has the task of fulfilling specific physiological functions.
The main ones include:
- Helping with the production of vitamins K and B
- Improving the digestion of particular foods
- Keeping the immune system in good health thanks to its barrier effect
- Helping the body fight-off infections and aggressions from harmful bacteria, viruses and microorganisms in general
- Maintaining the intestinal mucosa intact
It is easy to understand that a healthy microbiota (eubiosis) is very much capable of positively influencing our overall wellbeing. Of course, the opposite is also true: a damaged and unhealthy microbiota (dysbiosis) will impact a person’s health in a significantly negative way.
Eubiosis and dysbiosis are the two sides of the microbiota: they refer, respectively, to the microbial balance and imbalance of this incredible ally of human health. As a matter of fact, intestinal microbiota plays such a fundamental role in our physical conditions that experts currently define it as an actual “acquired” organ; acquired in the sense that, from the moment we are born, our intestinal microbiota evolves and changes as we grow.