How to Maintain a Healthy Gut Microbiota and Its Importance for Health.
Each individual owns a unique gut microbiota profile that plays many specific functions in the host’s nutrient metabolism, maintenance of the immune system, and protection against pathogens. The gut microbiota is composed of different bacteria. Each human’s gut microbiota is shaped in the early stages of life as its composition depends on infant transitions (birth gestational date, type of delivery, methods of milk feeding, weaning period) and external factors such as antibiotic use.
These personal gut microbiotas remain relatively stable in adulthood but differ between individuals due to enterotypes, body mass index (BMI) level, exercise frequency, lifestyle, cultural and dietary habits, and even their habitat.
There is no unique optimal gut microbiota composition since it is different for each individual. However, a healthy host–microorganism balance must be maintained in order to optimally perform metabolic and immune functions and prevent certain diseases. Studies show that more than 20,000 metabolic functions in humans are influenced by the human microbiome. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota is associated not only with intestinal disorders but also with numerous extra-intestinal diseases such as metabolic and neurological disorders. Understanding the cause or consequence of these gut microbiota establishes a balance between health and disease, and also helps to maintain or restore a healthy gut microbiota composition that is useful in developing promising therapeutic interventions.
FACTORS THAT CAN ALTER A HEALTHY GUT MICROBIOTA.
1. Early stages: it all starts with pregnancy, type of delivery, and methods of milk feeding.
After birth, a rich and dynamic ecosystem develops from factors like the mother’s skin, vaginal and fecal microbiota, and the environment the microbiota is in contact with. Microbiota colonization varies according to the type of delivery as well.
With regards to vaginal delivery, newborns acquire a microbiota composition resembling their mother’s vaginal microbiota, consisting mostly of lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. And infants born by cesarean section (C-section) acquire bacteria derived from the hospital environment and the mother’s skin, like Staphylococcus. Cesarean birth has been associated with an increased risk of chronic immune disorders such as asthma, systemic connective tissue disorders, juvenile arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity, but certainly, after one year of birth, microbiota from both newborns are usually similar.
Regardless of the method of milk feeding, breastfed infants generally get a more complex and diverse Bifidobacterium microbiota than formula-fed. Their microbiota also has a higher richness and diversity of Bifidobacterium, and a lower number of Clostridium difficile, and Escherichia coli than formula-fed infants.
2. BMI (Body Mass Index).