Gut microbiota, definition and function

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Isabel Morillo, nutritionist and dietician, talks about the microbiota in this interview. In a conversation with Alejandro Guerra, founder of Wake up, we talked about what the microbiota is, and how it affects us.

In addition, we talked about the conception of ourselves as individuals, when in reality we are a group of billions of microorganisms that need and coexist with each other.

Microbiota, also known as gut flora, is a term that has gained popularity in recent years due to its impact on our health and well-being. Although the concept of microorganisms living in our bodies may sound unpleasant, these tiny inhabitants play a vital role in our health and perform a variety of vital functions. In this article, we will explore the microbiota, its influence on our organism and how we are realizing that we are not only composed of human cells, but trillions of microorganisms.

Microbiota refers to the community of microorganisms that inhabit different parts of our body, the gut being one of the main ecosystems. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other unicellular organisms. Although we might think that these organisms are harmful, most of them are harmless and even beneficial to our health.

The intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients. These microorganisms help to break down the food we eat and extract the nutrients necessary for our body. In addition, they collaborate in the production of essential vitamins, such as vitamin K and some B-complex vitamins. Without the presence of a balanced microbiota, our ability to digest and absorb nutrients would be compromised.

But the influence of the microbiota is not limited to the digestive system. This microbial community has been found to have a significant impact on our immune system. The microorganisms in our gut interact with our immune cells, helping to regulate and strengthen our natural defenses. A diverse and healthy microbiota has been associated with a lower incidence of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

In addition, a connection has been established between the microbiota and our mental health. The gut and the brain are connected by the gut-brain axis, which allows bidirectional communication between the two. The gut microbiota produces neurotransmitters and chemicals that can influence our mood and emotional well-being. Recent studies suggest that imbalances in the microbiota may be related to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

As we advance our understanding of the microbiota, we are also realizing that humans are not composed solely of human cells. In fact, it is estimated that the number of microorganisms in our body far exceeds the number of our own cells. This idea challenges the traditional notion of human identity and leads us to consider that we are an ecosystem in itself, a symbiosis of human cells and microorganisms.

It is important to note that maintaining a proper balance in our microbiota is essential for our health. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics, an unbalanced diet and chronic stress are factors that can negatively alter the composition of the microbiota. This can lead to an imbalance known as dysbiosis, which has been associated with various diseases, such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to promote a healthy microbiota. A balanced diet rich in fiber is essential. Prebiotic fibers, present in foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, act as nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in our gut, promoting their growth and diversity.

In addition, consumption of probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, can help repopulate the microbiota with beneficial bacteria. These foods contain live microorganisms that can colonize our intestine and contribute to a healthy balance.

Another factor to consider is the responsible use of antibiotics. While these drugs are effective in fighting bacterial infections, they can also alter the microbiota. It is important to follow medical indications and avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics whenever possible.

The understanding of the microbiota and its importance for our health is constantly evolving. Advances in research allow us to appreciate the complexity and interconnection between these tiny inhabitants and our organism. As we delve deeper into this field, new therapeutic strategies and recommendations for maintaining a balanced microbiota will emerge.

In short, the microbiota is a fascinating community of trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our body. These microorganisms play a vital role in digestion, immune health and emotional well-being. We are realizing that we are not just human cells, but an ecosystem composed of a symbiosis between human cells and microorganisms. Maintaining a balanced microbiota through a healthy diet, responsible use of antibiotics and other measures is essential to promote our overall health and well-being.

Don’t believe anything you just read, think for yourself.

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