What is the gut microbiota?

December 14, 2021

The microbiota is the set of microorganisms found throughout the human body. There is a symbiotic relationship with these invisible microorganisms, that is, both the individual and the microorganisms that inhabit it derive mutual benefit from this hosting. These microorganisms can be bacteria, viruses, and fungi, among others.

This colonization is believed to begin at the time of delivery, where the mother passes part of her microbiota to the baby through the vaginal canal. From that moment on, the microbiota begins to form, reaching maturity around three years of age, at which point it already resembles that of an adult. It is important to emphasize that the microbiota gradually evolves throughout life, since it is highly susceptible to being modulated by the environment that surrounds the individual. Breastfeeding, the environment, antibiotics, diet, and possible allergies are some of the factors that affect and modulate the composition of the microbiota, which is unique and unrepeatable, like the genetics of each person.

The clearest example of this symbiosis is the intestinal microbiota. The intestine is colonized by billions of bacteria, with most of them located in the large intestine. More than 400 species of bacteria coexist in the intestine, each of them with different characteristics. It is estimated that, as a whole, the intestinal microbiota contains more than 3 million genes, that is, 150 times more than the human genome. All this bacterial genetics confers a series of advantages to the host from which it could not benefit if it were not for the bacteria in its intestine. For example, thanks to them complex fibers can be digested or vitamin K synthesized. Another important function of the intestinal microbiota is the activation of the immune system and its defensive role, since it prevents other pathogenic microorganisms from settling and proliferating, which can cause discomfort or illness.

However, being highly modulable, the set of various external factors can favor the growth of bacteria of little benefit to the body, generating a state of intestinal dysbiosis. Dysbiosis refers to the state of imbalance in the number or type of bacteria in the intestine, and some of its gastrointestinal symptoms can be poor digestion, bloating, and/or gas. For this reason, it is essential to eat a healthy diet that helps and promotes the growth of good bacteria. To do this, you must consume fruits and vegetables daily, prioritize legumes as a protein source, avoid alcohol and tobacco, reduce the consumption of sugar and refined flour, and eat probiotic foods such as yogurt or kefir. Maintaining a healthy, balanced and diverse microbiota is essential for good health. Take care of her!

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