The Amazing Functions of the Gut Microbiome

Our gut microbiome plays an incredibly vital role in our day to day life. Quietly working away inside our digestive system. Helping to feed us, producing useful nutrients and substances, and helping to make food more digestible. But recent studies have begun to uncover so much more…

For such an important part of our body, the existence of the gut microbiome wasn’t officially recognised until the 90’s. So it’s a relatively new and incredibly exciting field!

As scientists uncover its complex functionality and influence on other parts of our bodies, many are now beginning to argue that it should be considered an organ.

Before we delve into all the amazing functions of our gut microbiome, here’s a quick reminder of what our gut microbiome actually is…


What is the gut microbiome?

Gut flora, gut microbiota, or gut microbiome, these terms are used to describe the populations of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses etc.) that live within our gut. Some are beneficial, playing a symbiotic role within our digestive system, but others can be harmful.


A few fast gut microbiome facts…

The bacteria of our gut microbiome can weigh up to 2kg!

After passing through our gut, 1g of faeces can contain over 7 billion bacteria

Our microbiome specifies which blood type we have!

Everyone's microbiome is as unique as their fingerprint

    Image with text that reads, "The bacteria of our gut microbiome can weigh up to 2kg!".


    What does our gut microbiome do?

    Scientists are now beginning to untangle all of the amazing roles that our gut microbiome plays in our lives. From nutrition and immunity to hormone production and mental health… here are some of the core functions of the gut microbiome!


    Helps nutrient absorption (+ nutrient production!)

    Working hard on meeting your daily fruit and veggie target? Without a healthy microbiome, our gut may not be absorbing nutrients as efficiently as it should.

    After we have processed food in our small intestine, our microbiome further down the gut steps in to digest food that we cannot break down ourselves (indigestible plant fibres etc.).

    Our gut microbiome produces enzymes to digest, harvest and store certain nutrients from the food we eat. For example, they can break down ingestible fibre into beneficial nutrients which we can then absorb.

    Certain bacteria within our gut are also responsible for actually creating nutrients, like thiamine, riboflavin and vitamins K and B12!

    Our gut microbiome accounts for about 10% of our nutrition, so a healthy gut microbiome is key to a healthy body!


    Regulates and strengthens our immune system

    Did you know that over 70% of your immune system is found in your gut? Better nutrient absorption goes hand in hand with a stronger and more robust immune system. But the bacteria in our gut microbiome do much more to keep us healthy …

    • Some ‘good’ bacteria help to break down toxins from pathogens
    • They also help to train our immune system to identify unwelcome pathogens
    • As they occupy different areas of our gut, their presence creates a physical barrier to protect against some harmful bacteria

    An with text that reads, "over 70% of your immune system is found in your gut". There is also a small icon of a stomach and yellow shield. 


    Strengthens our digestive system

    A healthy microbiome helps to strengthen the internal surface of our gut. From preventing allergic and inflammatory reactions (for example IBS symptoms) to keeping the cell walls healthy, which keeps the gut running efficiently.


    Influences mental health

    Perhaps one of the most surprising benefits of a healthy microbiome is the effect it can have on our mental health.

    An increase or decrease in certain bacteria has been linked to changes in levels of stress, anxiety and depression. One study in Ireland linked the presence of the 'good' bacteria Bifidobacterium longum to improved memory and a reduction in stress hormones!

    95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. So while it may not be the only cause, scientists are now looking at how the health of our gut and microbiome plays a role in the health of our minds.

    Our brain and gut communicate via several different pathways, including the vagus nerve and circulatory system.

    This gut-brain connection is now being used to improve the way we treat conditions like stress, anxiety and depression.

    A girl in a white polka dot dress sits on a rock over looking still water. She leans her forehead against her left palm as though concerned. 


    And so much more…

    Our gut microbiome also plays a role in improving our sleep (a more diverse gut microbiome is linked to better and longer sleep!), skin health and even our pain management. Yet there’s still so much more to discover.

    Our gut microbiome is filled with an incredible variety of bacteria — some of which are yet to be identified.

    Scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface of this microbial world and the individual roles of each member. However, the evidence clearly aligns a healthy and diverse microbiome with improved overall health.


    Keeping your gut microbiome healthy

    Our gut microbiome is influenced by a number of factors, but especially by what we eat! One of the easiest ways to keep your gut microbiome healthy is to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and increase your prebiotic fibre intake!


    Prebiotic fibre and the microbiome

    Jamu Wild Water was created with your microbiome in mind. We use a natural, plant-based sweetener to make our drinks sugar-free. But each can of natural sparkling water also contains 5g of prebiotic fibre which feeds and boosts the populations of good bacteria in our gut microbiome.

    Related Read | Why is prebiotic fibre so good for you?


    Gut health and prebiotics play such a critical role in our well-being. If you’re curious to know more about the wonders of the gut, we highly recommend the book ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders which gives a brilliant insight into the inner workings of our digestive system, including the fascinating gut-brain axis, and how we are the “gardeners of our inner world”.

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