The microbiome is the community of microbes that live and work together in any environment. Here we are going to discuss how the microbiome works in humans and other animals, and the wonderful role it plays. Our bodies are made up of microbes, they outnumber our body’s cells ten to one. The majority of our microbiome lives in our gut, particularly the large intestine, but also on our skin, in our hair and in our mouths. Animal’s microbiomes can also live within the fur and features like the hooves. This collection of invisible friends can weigh as much as 2-3 kg.
Despite existing as long as developed life has, the microbiome wasn’t acknowledged formally in science until the 1990’s. Since then we have learned a lot, but are still trying to figure out exactly how it all works. So far it seems like our microbiome is kick started as we pass through the birth canal, although more evidence is pointing towards it starting in the womb. From there, everything we encounter through our food and our interaction with our environment adds to our microbiome.
The majority of what becomes part of this system is very positive. Microbes perform all kinds of functions, from digesting your food to communicating with your immune system. The wider your microbial diversity, the better for your health. When certain bacteria are missing, or others have overgrown to an imbalance it can have negative impacts.
An imbalance in bacteria levels in your microbiome may lead to inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and leaky gut syndrome and has been proven to have an effect on weight gain. Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and fibromyalgia are also strongly impacted by microbiome dysfunction. New research is even showing it can impact your nervous system, brain health and heart health.
When your microbial diversity is healthy, your microbiome will assist your immune system in many ways. Some bacteria will block up holes in your intestines, others will communicate with your immune system, ordering certain cells to fight invaders, others will fight the invaders themselves. Less than 1%
of microbes that enter your system will be capable of causing an illness, and these are called pathogens. When these pathogens replicate to high numbers this is called an infection. This happens pretty frequently, but your “good bugs” often address the situation before it becomes a problem. It’s kind of like a battle. If your body is being invaded by a small band of bad guys, but it has a large
retinue of it’s own soldiers on standby, your defenses will wipe out the pathogens before you even notice them. However, if you don’t have a lot of spare guys waiting around, or if you only have archers but you need swordsmen for this particular enemy, they might have time to get their numbers up and make you sick.
Luckily there are a lot of things you can do to address the balance. Many foods contain good bacteria, in particular yoghurt and fermented foods like Kombucha and Kimchi, which can introduce a good variety of positive microbes. You can also buy probiotic products which are specially formulated to improve gut health. This kind of thing has become more important with the prevalence of COVID-19
as everyone becomes much more careful about hygiene, causing our environments to be more sterile and killing off good and bad bacteria indiscriminately.
When it comes to the animals in your life, there are options for them too. Keeping their microbiomes healthy can help keep them from succumbing to infection from everyday knocks and scrapes. Heading off these infections will save your pet a lot of discomfort as well as saving you a lot in vet bills.
EquineCare Probiotic and CanineCare Probiotic have a range of products to keep your animals in top shape, from a prebiotic to a probiotic for the inner microbiome, to a topical spray you can use on the outside of the body when a minor wound or infection has occurred. These natural, safe products work
by introducing a LOT of the beneficial microbes the system needs, reducing the need for antibiotics and big financial outgoings.