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Microbiota 101

September 29, 2014

Microbiota 101

We talk a lot about the gut microbiota, but what exactly is it? Understanding what the microbiota are, and how they play a role in your overall health will offer insight into why it’s so necessary to protect their delicate balance in our digestive systems. Microbiota simply defined are, “the microorganisms of a particular site, habitat, or geological period.” Microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even some algae, but in the case of the human gut, these microorganisms are mostly bacteria.

Role of Microbiota in the Gut

Our microbiota build communities within our digestive system. Scientists are still learning more and more about the role that these micro communities play on our overall health, but we have come a long way in understanding certain aspects. Natren has been a leading player in this research for over 30 years. These micro communities exist all over your body including on your skin, in your upper respiratory tract, and groin and in your intestines. Most of these seem to make a home in our gut, so they are sometimes referred to specifically as the gut flora or gut microbiota. The amount of microbiota that lives within your digestive tract is quite impressive. In the stomach there are around a thousand bacterial cells per gram of contents and that number multiplies further down the digestive tract to tens of millions of cells per gram in the lower intestine – the highest population being in the lower GI tract and colon. It may seem kind of gross that so many microorganisms are living all over our bodies, but some of these colonies are actually beneficial. In fact, it has been shown that mice raised under “germ-free” conditions in labs where microorganisms have been extremely reduced or eliminated, were immune-deficient and highly susceptible to various infections. The presence of gut microbiota is so pervasive that the collective metabolic function of the bacterial organism equals that of a vital organ in the body. These microbiota assist in a variety of functions for the digestive and immune system including:

  • Digestion, particularly of food that’s difficult for the body to break down on its own like carbohydrates and certain fibers.
  • The production of certain vitamins including Vitamins B and K.
  • Combating aggressions from harmful bacteria, yeast, and other bad microorganisms.
  • Provides a protective barrier to the wall of the intestine that helps strengthen the immune system. This barrier prevents pathogens from attaching to intestinal walls. It also reinforces intestinal walls to help avoid conditions like “leaky gut syndrome.”
  • They may affect our mood and how we feel.
  • Maintains a healthy balance of organisms within the digestive tract.

As you can see, the collective colonies of bacteria that make up your gut microbiota are complex and multi-faceted. That is why it is so important to take care of your internal ecosystem – it affects so many aspects of your daily life, health and wellbeing.

The post Microbiota 101 appeared first on Natren Probiotics Blog.




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