Why The Microbiome Should Be Treated As Another Whole Organ Altogether

Should the microbiome be treated as another whole organ? In this article, you’ll hear from two United Kingdom-based researchers who have done their research. Their findings focus on obesity and metabolism. The two experts are Dr. Petra Hanson and Dr. Thomas M. Barber. Listen to them and read up on what they have to say as they comprehensively discuss the microbiome, the marketing hype behind probiotics, and the future direction of research.


Dr. Hanson and Dr. Barber work at Warwick Medical School and the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire National Health Service (NHS) Trust. They are also members of the Warwick Obesity Network.

Their studies were made timely because of market trends and demands nowadays. In fact, as you browse through the shelves of many shops, you’ll find a growing consumer infatuation with probiotics. These products have gone to more than just consuming yogurt products. Probiotics come in as myriad of dietary supplements that are stacked on shelves. They have learned to infuse shampoo, toothpaste, skin care products, and snacks with probiotics, and these products apply to both humans and animals. In fact, some have even become a feature of some anti-allergy mattresses.

The probiotic world is buzzing with stories that stem from the now prolific scientific attention on the recognition of the importance of our gut microbiome. As for those who may not be quite familiar with the topic just yet, the gut microbiome is a collection of bacteria that lives in the large intestine.

Researchers and health experts have recently looked into the gut microbiome for its potential to enhance and benefit the countless aspects of both physical and mental health. This is a potential that people have come to take seriously. In fact, the topic itself has generated excitement when they think about the prospect of improving health. This interest may have possibly stemmed from the obesity epidemic and people are now searching for ways to improve their gut bacteria.

The prospect comes with scores of possibilities that researchers at the University of Warwick have concluded that the medical community should think about the gut microbiome almost like an organ. It has earn a right to be taken seriously. As with other organs in the human body, the gut microbiome has the ability to make a person feel unwell if this is not properly well cared for. On the other hand, it also holds the great ability to promote health and wellbeing if it’s cared for and given the vitamins and nutrients it highly needs.

As Dr. Hanson stated, “We know that the human microbiome is crucial in healthy physiological processes. Our research shows that it plays many and varied roles — for example, in the normal development of the immune system, in the mediation of inflammatory pathways and metabolic processes, and in the regulation of appetite.”

A recent high profile and high quality study mentioned in Nature Medicine, for instance, was able to document new and significant connections between overall health and gut biomes. They were also able to find the integral link between certain microbes to healthy and unhealthy outcomes.

The research discovered certain bacterial species that seem to be linked to a lower appetite, lower body weight, and reduced overall inflammatory status. Recent research has also been made in Warwick Medical School. Their findings show that other bacterial species are associated with an unhealthy metabolic status. Then, there were also scientists that have recently found a certain microbiome pattern that’s associated to healthy aging. 

For now, experts were able to identify only about 1,000 species of what they think are likely to be millions of microorganisms that live and thrive in the human body.

In fact, as soon as 3 years of age, the gut microbiota should established. However, there are a variety of factors that can change its diversity and development. Such factors include host genetics, diet, age, mode of birth, and antibiotics, as well as probiotics, fecal microbiota transplants, and prebiotics.

As per Dr. Barber, “So far, data from human-based studies are mainly observational in nature. We still lack enough evidence to say that healthier, more diverse microbiomes cause greater metabolic health; we can only say that these microbiomes are associated with better outcomes. This is a very different standard.”


The Probiotics

Scientists know the importance of healthy bacteria found in the gut. In fact, they believe that probiotics work by preserving the balance of the normal intestinal microbiota and improving the strength of the body’s immune system. They’ve conducted several researches on this and the recent findings suggest how certain types of probiotics could be good in halting a variety of diseases.

Probiotics have been popular in the last few years. Despite the trend and the high demands, there seems to be insufficient evidence about the benefits of probiotics and their safety. They also haven’t spoken much about the possible side effects.


Fecal Transplants

Recent studies have looked into the benefits of transplanting fecal bacteria from healthy donors into people with intestinal diseases. This was made as an attempt to restore the function of healthy gut microbiota in sick people.

These said transplants could treat different diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been shown how these procedures were actually far more effective than probiotics. Why? Because the effects of transplants on microbiota could last for 24 weeks. Probiotics only work for 14 days.


The Prebiotics

Then, there are also the plant-based foods that are a good source of prebiotics. These have the ability to stimulate the growth of gut bacteria. Research on this microbe show that prebiotics have three features:

  • They resist the absorption in the digestive tract.
  • The microbiome can ferment them.
  • They can have a positive health effect through either or both direct or indirect action of the body’s microbiome.

Dietary fiber that come from predominantly from plant-based foods is the main source of prebiotics. In fact, these dietary fibers can be grouped as one of two types: soluble, which helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels, or insoluble, which promotes the movement of food and materials through the digestive system.

The main sources of soluble fiber are both fruits and vegetables, which are plants. Although cereals and whole grain products provide insoluble fiber, foods that are high on fiber have the two kinds. In fact, the current recommendations for dietary fiber intake for adults in in both Europe and the United States are 30 to 35 grams per day (g/day) for males and 25 to 32 g/day for females. Unfortunately, most of the diets fall short in the recommended daily dosage.

The recent findings on diet and fiber were made from the Warwick scientists research. Their findings highlight the extent of the existing diet gap. It was shown that most should increase the dietary fiber intake by about a whopping 50 percent.

As the team’s recent research has highlighted, the health benefits of dietary fiber have been recognized by health experts and the public. Having a healthy gut environment reduces a great number of health issues. Included are obesity or excess body weight, chronic inflammation, depression, and the risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Importantly, the research findings also explain in detail the beneficial effects of dietary fiber on the microbiome.

Experts have yet to learn everything that takes place in the microbiome. However, they do know this – and that’s how dietary fiber enhances the production of key microbial molecules that set off a reaction that helps promote the person’s overall health and wellbeing.

While much has yet to be explained about the interaction between the gut microbiota and the brain, this complex and multidirectional process shows promise. These experts and researchers are working hard to discover the precise mechanisms of the process. Nonetheless, insights and details about the wider role of the microbiome in overall human physical and mental health look to be promising.

Whatever the case may be and whatever the findings are, this truth is simple to practice: Eat plenty of fiber. Include a variety of unprocessed foods in your diet. Don’t forget about fruits and vegetables. With this, you’re on your way metabolic health because of the diverse microbiome that’s present in your gut. There is no other way for this practice. And more importantly, it’s always good to keep in mind that prevention is definitely better than the cure.