What is the microbiome?

The microbiome is a community made up of microorganisms that inhabit an environment and the relationship between the members determines the overall state of that given environment. Members of the microbial community include microbes such as bacteria, viruses, archaea, protozoa and fungi. It is known that the human body can be both protected and become vulnerable to microbes. It is well known that certain microorganisms can be viewed as pathogens; those that cause harm to the body, it is even more important to understand the unique relationship, or the population proportion of each organism within a given environment. The study of the microbiome helps uncover the specific members and their population in each community, or in a microbiota.

The microbiome is that it is unique to every individual, just like a fingerprint, no microbiome can be identical to another. In a therapeutic approach, this individualized aspect allows professionals to approach patient care on an individual level, taking into consideration the unique biology of the patient.

The BioArte diagnostic microbial lab the Microbiome Microbiotas

Microbiome & Microbiota: What is the difference?

The microbiome is the collection of all the genomes of these microorganisms.

The microbiota is referring to the collection of all the living microorganisms that are populating an environment.

From the microbiota we can extract the DNA and create the microbiome.

Microorganisms form communities and co-exist in their own environment, which are referred to as microbiotas. There are several microbiotas in every human body, such as the gut microbiota, oral microbiota, skin microbiota, nasal microbiota, vaginal microbiota and even placental microbiota.

Good vs Bad: Healthy vs Unhealthy

The study of the microbiome and the individual microbiotas has helped determine that the conventional approach to microorganisms, i.e., good bacteria vs bad bacteria, may be a very simplistic approach and that there is a deeper relationship that needs to be studied to determine the line between a healthy and unhealthy state. Generally, the presence of a pathogenic bacteria, or bad bacteria, is viewed as a microorganism that brings harm to the body. Traditionally the approach is to remove the ‘bad’ bacteria to ultimately reach a healthy state. However, since the microbiotas are environments that consist of many different members, it is important to understand the relationship between these microbes, prior to the removal of a specific microorganism.

If you were to view the microbiota as a piece of fertile land, which can cater for the growth of a variety of vegetation, the first step prior to planting would be to determine which plants would grow and flourish when planted near each other and which would not. In a similar manner, the microbiota as an environment that consists of microbes that when co-existing in harmony result in a healthy human body, or a piece of land with flourishing vegetation. However, if there is the presence of a microbe that does not belong in that specific community, or a member that has for some reason began to overgrow and takes portions of the environment that belong to the other members, this would result in a disbalance and an overall unhealthy human body.

Symptoms of a disbalanced gut microbiome

Although our biology is unique and symptoms of a disbalance can vary from one person to another, there are common signs that are shared by many when there is a disbalance in the gut microbiome. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Stomach disturbances (e.g. bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn).
  • Unintentional weight changes.
  • Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue.
  • Skin irritation (e.g. hypersensitive skin, urticaria, eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and fungal infections).
  • Sudden high-sugar diet.
  • Food intolerances.
  • Autoimmune conditions (e.g. increased systematic inflammation).

Microbiota Testing – Evaluating – Result

A microbiota test focuses on analysing the state of individual microbiotas that provide insights into the microbial self. Once a microbiota test has been performed and there is a clear understanding of who the members of the community are and what their population in relation to one another is, the information can be evaluated from a broad view. A microbial expert, can than interpret the results, taking into account the information on your medical history to better suggest or draw a diagnosis on the improvements that are needed for your body to be in balance.

A gut microbiota test essentially provides eyes on the inside. Any disbalance or dysbiosis; a reduction in microbial diversity and a combination of the loss of beneficial bacteria, can be observed, studied and understood from such a test.

Broad spectrum antibiotics & the gut microbiota

There are many underlying causes of a disbalance. A medical history, lifestyle habits, nutrition, and so on, all play a role in the final analysis. Different classes of antibiotics may be directed to a specific strain, so it is very common to use wide spectrum antibiotics that for sure will have an impact on the equilibrium, because they will affect not only the pathogen but also all the rest. It is advised to take a course of probiotics, to help your gut microbiota to re-establish a healthy community of a balanced population of beneficial bacteria. This can be a good starting point, however, since everyone’s biology is unique, for a precise approach of which bacteria you specifically should aim to cultivate in your gut, and which you may best avoid, a gut microbiota test can help with such insights.

Medication & the gut microbiota

Apart from helping restore your gut microbiome, a gut microbiota test can also assist in understanding what type of medication and in which doses can suit your body best. Conventional medicine uses standardized dosage for medication. However, it has been recognized that although a small percentage of people may not necessarily fit that standardized gap, with the available testing, now anyone can allow themselves to check on what medication and what dosage fits them best. This is particularly important for those people who may be on long-term and life-long medication. It is well documented that some drugs will have an impact on the microbiota, so a person can take the same approach suggested nowadays after an antibiotic treatment. Also, in such a case, the response of a drug on a person’s microbiota may be unique, as a follow up treatment can help keep track on what is going on from within.

From disbalance to balance

If a gut microbiota test reveals that a patient’s gut microbiota is disbalanced, a carefully compiled suggestion to improve the state of the microbiota is given by a microbial expert. The most common method of balancing out a microbiome is with the use to specific type of probiotics and prebiotics. This will help to balance out the environment’s population. For instance; if there happens to be an overgrowth of a family of bacteria, the increase of another family’s population can help bring down the bacteria’s population to the normal range.

Difference between Probiotics & Prebiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeasts that help create a balanced gut microbiome, usually can be bought over the counter in forms of supplements. Prebiotics are the beneficial bacteria’s nutrition which allow for the beneficial bacteria to grow and inhabit the gut microbiota, promoting a balanced and healthy gut microflora. Prebiotics range from natural foods rich in prebiotics for some bacterial families, to fermented foods that act as nutrition for other bacterial families.

List of foods rich in Prebiotics

Fruits
  • Dried fruits (eg. dates, figs, etc.)
  • Bananas (unripe)
  • Apples (particularly the pectin found in apples)
  • Avocado
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
Vegetables & Sea vegetables
  • Jerusalem artichoke (Topinambur)
  • Chicory
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Artichoke
  • Onion
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Soy
  • Seaweed
Legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Red kidney beans
  • Baked beans
  • Soybeans
Cereals & Bread
  • Wholemeal flour
  • Wheat bran, wheat & wheat bread
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye & rye bread
  • Couscous
Nuts & Seeds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
Fermented foods
  • Yoghurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh

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