We are learning more about the importance of the microbiome – this is the genetic material of all the microbes, including; bacteria, fungi and viruses that live inside the human body.
Interestingly enough, we have more microbes living inside of us than we contain cells – about 30 trillion cells and about 100 trillion microbes.
These microbes are microorganisms that serve many purposes, like helping us digest our food, regulating our immune systems, protecting us from other harmful bacteria, and even producing vitamins.
This may sound odd that you have small microorganisms that live within your body, but it only gets stranger from here.
These microorganisms contain their own genetic make up, meaning they have come from outside of you – They are separate to you, even though they live inside of you.
Scientists are now learning about the strong link between the health of your gut bacteria and conditions like depression. But before we dive into that, let me tell you more about these microscopic living entities that make a, “home, sweet home” out of your intestines.
To give you an idea as to how intelligent these microorganisms can be, there is a specific strain of bacteria that, in order to reproduce they must enter the stomach of a cat.
It is difficult for this bacteria to find its way into the cats stomach, so instead of entering in directly, this bacteria enters via the cats prey – the mouse. These microorganisms find their way into the food of the mice, and once they have entered the body of the mouse, they hijack its brain, causing a cascade of the neurochemical dopamine to be released.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. If the mouse’s brain is flooded with dopamine, it goes from its natural fight or flight state required to avoid dangerous predators such as the cat, to being in a more relaxed state with less inhibitions.
As a result of this flood of dopamine, the mouse starts to let its guard down and before you know it, its being snatched up by the cat.
Mission accomplished for this intelligent bacteria. They have found their way into the stomach of the cat, via the chewed up mouse. They can now begin their reproductive cycle.
As for the bacteria that lives in your gut, its now thought that the more diverse the bacteria in your intestinal tract, the better. Diversity suggests that your bacteria is better able to fight off and resist harmful pathogens. And, in the case of one strain not being able to do their job properly, this diversity can act as an insurance policy, with other strains being able to step in and cover.
There has been a huge link between gut health and depression. The gut is sometimes referred to as the second brain, and that’s no surprise seeing as though the gut is the biggest producer of serotonin – the happy chemical, second to the brain.
Apart from depression, poor gut health has also been linked to; diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome and many other mental health concerns – Just ask the mice, I am sure they can confirm this.
In order to look after your microscopic companions, you can –
1) eat fermented foods, such as; yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and
2) eat loads of fruit, veg and beans
3) avoid foods with artificial sweeteners
4) eat prebiotic foods
5) eat whole grains
6) eat foods rich in polyphenols; grapes, green tea, berries, dark choc, and yes RED WINE.
7) take probiotic supplements