We are in the era of discovery in intestinal health. Numerous studies on the microbiota (intestinal flora) are emerging, and we understand its importance more and more.
To better understand the impact of the intestinal flora (microbiota) on health, here are 4 reasons to keep your intestinal flora healthy.
But first ...
What is the microbiota?
The microbiota is characterized by all the organisms (microbes, bacteria, yeasts) that cohabit together in a living being. For humans, we generally refer to the intestinal microbiota, which is home to more than 100,000 billion bacterias. 1
These organisms live in symbiosis and contribute to the maintenance of good health. However, the intestinal flora is very sensitive and reacts to many imbalances: poor diet, stress, medication, hormonal changes, alcohol consumption, etc. The intestinal flora is also very sensitive to the presence of bacteria. These imbalances have the effect of depleting the good colonies of bacteria (probiotics) and multiplying the harmful colonies (pathogens). This condition, called intestinal dysbiosis, leads to health problems. 2,3
So here are 4 reasons to maintain healthy intestinal flora.
The intestinal flora promotes proper digestion.
Bacterias play an essential role in the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
They break down dietary fiber that would otherwise be indigestible to humans. This promotes intestinal transit and the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Besides, the microbiota participates in the production of certain essential amino acids including tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, and melatonin. These two neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) regulate mood and sleep. Beneficial bacterias also produce vitamins (B, K), fatty acids, and enzymes. 4,5,6
The healthy microbiota also ensures the proper functioning of the intestinal barrier, which prevents leaky gut syndrome". 7
Conversely, when bacterial stability is disrupted, there is an increase in a variety of health problems including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic inflammation, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.7,8,9,10,11
Intestinal flora supports the immune system
To fully understand the role of the microbiota on immune health, we must first understand that the digestive tract is a kind of extension of the skin. The gastrointestinal tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, and various parts of the intestine, is therefore outside the body, although this may seem incredible.
Bacterias found inside this tube can modulate our immune system and promote its defenses. This is partly because 80% of human immune cells are found in the intestines.13 The microbiota and immune system have a communication and information exchange system that allows them to fight potential enemies.14
In addition, the intestinal flora can secrete various agents (fatty acids, hydrogen peroxide) that act as protection while stimulating immune cells. It has been shown that several strains of intestinal bacteria can increase the presence of immune cells and control them.15
Finally, healthy bacterias (probiotics) stimulate the production of intestinal mucus, which acts as a microbial barrier against potential invaders.
The intestinal flora contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Obesity is a widespread problem. Although this metabolic disorder is multifactorial, studies conducted on the microbiology of the intestine have shown that intestinal health has a role to play.
From birth and throughout childhood, several factors influence the composition of the microbiota: vaginal or cesarean birth, medication, breastfeeding or not, and exposure to environmental microbes (soil, air, water). These factors form the determinants of the intestinal flora.
Consequently, humans do not all have the same intestinal flora or health. For some people, specific bacterial colonies have the capacity to store more fat reserves. 16
Thus, the composition of the intestinal flora could play a role in the manifestation of weight disorders. Obesity must therefore be addressed holistically by establishing good intestinal health.
Intestinal flora ensures good mental health.
Since the publication of the book "The Second Brain" in 1999, the concept that the intestine acts as a second brain has become widespread.
The author of this book, Dr. Gershon, popularized the idea that the intestinal tract is home to several thousand nerve cells (neurons) and that these cells have effects on mood and well-being as important as the main brain. 17
To date, many questions remain unanswered about the brain-intestinal axis. However, several studies show that the microbiota has likely effects on the prevention of mood disorders including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. 18,19
Maintain your intestinal flora in good health
To maintain good intestinal health, it is necessary to have a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole and/or sprouted grains, avoid over-consumption of processed products, meat, sugar, coffee, and alcohol. From time to time, the intestinal flora deserves to be strengthened by taking additional probiotics.
Opt for Bio-K+, a 100% probiotic product from Quebec whose benefits on human health have been identified in numerous scientific studies. Bio-K+ offers delicious probiotic beverages with certain vegan options in various flavors and more classic probiotics. Bio-K+ products are available at La Boîte à grains stores.
Véronique Cousineau; ND, RHN
This article is for information purposes only. Always consult your doctor and/or pharmacist before discontinuing medication. If you are taking medication, it is best to check with a health care professional to see if it has any interactions with natural health products. If in doubt, consult a licensed naturopathic doctor who has access to a drug/supplement interaction database.
- Qin et al. 2010. A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing. Nature. 464 (4):59-67.
- Dethlefsen and Relman. 2010. Incomplete recovery and individualized responses of the human distal gut... PNAS. 108(suppl1) : 4554- 4561.
- Connolly et al, 2010. In vitro evaluation of the microbiota modulation abilities of different sized whole oat... Anaerobe 16 : 483- 488.
- Duncan SH. et al. « Effects of alternative dietary substrates on competition between human colonic bacteria in an anaerobic fermentor system » Applied and environmental microbiology 69, 1136 (2003).
- Rastall et al. 2005. Modulation of the microbial ecology of the human colon by probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics to enhance human health: An overview of enabling science and potential applications. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 52: 145-152.
- Bäckhed F, Ley RE, Sonnenburg JL, Peterson DA, Gordon JI. « Host-bacterial mutualism in the human intestine » Science 307, 1915 (2005)
- Organisation mondiale de gastroentérologie « Probiotiques et pre-biotiques [archive] », Coll. Recommandations Pratiques, mai 2008,
- Swidsinski A. et al. « Mucosal flora in inflammatory bowel disease » Gastroenterology 122, 44–54 (2002).
- Manichanh C. et al. « Reduced diversity of faecal microbiota in Crohn’s disease revealed by a metagenomic approach » Gut 55, 205–11 (2006) PMID 16188921 [archive]
- Vasquez N. et al. « Patchy distribution of mucosal lesions in ileal Crohn’s disease is not linked to differences in the dominant mucosa-associated bacteria: A study using fluorescence in situ hybridization and temporal temperature gradient gel electrophoresis » Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 13, 684–692 (2007) PMID 17206669 [archive]
- MacDonald TT, Bell I, Monteleone G. « The opposing roles of IL-21 and TGFbeta1 in chronic inflammatory bowel disease » Biochem Soc Trans. 39, 1061–1066 (2011) PMID 21787348 [archive]
- Sobhani I. et al. Microbial Dysbiosis in Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Patients« Microbial Dysbiosis in Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Patients » PLoS ONE 6, e16393 (2011) PMID 21297998 [archive]
- Hooper and Macpherson, 2010. Immune adaptation that maintain homeostasis with the intestinal microbiota. Nat rev Immunol. 10(3):159-169.
- Giorgetti, GianMarco, et coll. « Interactions between Innate Immunity, Microbiota, and Probiotics. » Journal of Immunology Research 2015 (2015).
- Marchesi, Julian R., et coll. « The gut microbiota and host health: a new clinical frontier. » Gut (2015) : gutjnl-2015
- Backhed, F. et al. The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101, 15718 (2004).
- Linda Lee, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.
- Anastasiya Slyepchenko, Andre F. Carvalho, Danielle S. Cha, Siegfried Kasper, Roger S. McIntyre. Gut Emotions - Mechanisms of Action of Probiotics as Novel Therapeutic Targets for Depression and Anxiety Disorders. CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets. Volume 13 , Issue 10, 2014
- Javier R. Caso, Vicent Balanzá-Martínez, Tomás Palomo and Borja García-Bueno, « The Microbiota and Gut-Brain Axis: Contributions to the Immunopathogenesis of Schizophrenia », Current Pharmaceutical Design, vol. 22, no 40, 31 octobre 201