The microbiome is considered to be the whole constellation of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract, predominantly in the colon. There are over 100 trillion bacteria present–more than the number of cells that you have in your body. These bacteria are very important for digestion, and for producing various hormones and neurotransmitters. This “microbiome” plays a role in metabolism, for breaking down food for assimilating the nutrients through the gastrointestinal surface layer, and also it plays a role in regulating the moods, food cravings, and weight management, among other things. There are many different subtypes of bacteria and the more diversity of bacteria present the better for the person. People who have a limited number of bacterial subtypes tend to have more digestive issues.
There has been a recent increase in interest lately in the microbiome, specifically to find treatments for depression, obesity, irritable bowel, and for bowel infections of various kinds. Studies have shown that the bacteria are able to communicate to each other and transmit information to other bacteria of a different type. Bacteria are also impacted by the hormones produced by the adrenal gland during times of stress , and this can sometimes decrease the beneficial bacteria There should be about 80 % beneficial bacterial to 20% “bad “ bacteria. When this proportion changes either due to stress, or to antibiotic usage, then a person may experience ill effects–either nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, yeast overgrowth or by increasing the likelihood 0f developing food sensitivities.
There are current studies to determine if replacing or encouraging growth of certain bacterial subtypes in the treatment of depression. Some subtypes are known to produce serotonin which is your “feel good” hormone. If you do not make enough of this hormone, it results in depression. Also transplants of colonic bacteria from obese people to skinny people have caused the skinny people to gain weight, and transplants of colonic bacteria from skinny people to obese people have helped the obese people loose weight. Currently colonic transplants from healthy individuals to treat people with C. Diff infections has resulted in cures of C. diff without the use of heavy duty antibiotics.
This leads to the question as to whether a person should take probiotics and pre-biotics (the food that supports beneficial bacterial growth) . There are a lot of companies producing a probiotic supplement, some of which require refrigeration and others that do not, A diet higher in fresh vegetables tends to promote a healthier microbiome, whereas a diet higher in processed foods leads to food cravings — specifically for carbohydrates and sugar because these diets promote the overgrowth of yeast. The yeast then manufacture substances that go through the blood stream to the brain causing the person to crave carbohydrates and sugar. People generally start feeling better and find the cravings disappear by changing the diet. However, probiotics are often helpful when making trying to make the dietary changes.