How does nutrition affect the microbiome? 4 vulnerable areas of concern

Heather Campbell
 min read

How does nutrition affect the microbiome?

How does nutrition affect the microbiome? 4 vulnerable areas of concernOur food allows us to provide the energy necessary for the proper functioning of our cellular machinery, an obvious and undeniable relationship.

As a whole, inadequate nutrition will show up in various physical states, most notably in digestive issues, regeneration of cells, breakdown in communication between cells and vital organs, brain capacity and moods. Food is the link between all of these, so nutrition is key.

In micronutrition, we believe that any complaint or functional sign, whatever it may be, is already the expression of a disturbance in the quality of this interdependent relationship.

The functional sign you present is the expression of a creaking fabric. The cell is the functional unit of any tissue. Therefore, a squeaky tissue is the manifestation of its malnourished functional unit, an expression of the dysfunctional cell.

If our cells are not fed adequately, then the whole fabric of our body can break down and this will be manifested and ways we never realized.

How does nutrition affect the microbiome? Introduction to how our diet impacts our health

The correlation between the way we eat and the functional signs presented allows us to prioritize and thus propose the optimal nutritional advice for better health.

It is therefore essential to analyze the nature of our food, a fundamental fuel that constantly provides the energy necessary for the functioning and renewal of our cells.

An adapted and balanced diet positively affects our body, while an unbalanced diet has the opposite effect.

There is an inseparable relationship between our dietary balance and our state of health. A certain number of weak points in our body are the gateways to the expression of functional disorders.

These points of vulnerability are called weak points, because they are very often involved in the occurrence of functional disorders.

There are four of them and they require, for their proper functioning, a varied and balanced daily diet, often accompanied by an adapted supplementation.

The whole point of adapted and individualized micronutrition management is to identify the weak point in danger and then provide the necessary contributions to its proper functioning.

The digestive weakness

Everything we take in to become usable and useful for our body must be processed by our digestive tract. Food must be digested, assimilated and distributed. These different steps require the active and efficient participation of the digestive tract.

If the essential steps of digestion and assimilation do not take place in an optimal way, certain nutrients brought by the food ration will not be available.

Let’s not forget that digestion is also dependent on enzymes. The ability to synthesize these enzymes is closely related to our genetic makeup.

Thus, we do not all have the same digestive capacity. For two people eating the same meal, the way the body uses the food will be different.

This action of digestion must be followed by the process of absorption-assimilation. From this close and indispensable collaboration, we derive the benefit of what we eat for the greater good of our bodies.

This process depends directly on the intestinal ecosystem, whose functional efficiency is linked to the synergy of action of the 3 elements that compose it:

  • The intestinal immune system
  • The intestinal mucosa
  • The microbiota

The microbiota is the most vulnerable

The most vulnerable element of this functional synergy is the microbiota (intestinal flora).

Tip: For more info on the functions of the bacterial flora in our guts, read our other article Direct and indirect functions of the bacterial flora within the human gut

Any disturbance of this microbiota has an impact on the assimilation-absorption process and does not allow us to fully benefit from the quality of our food.

Some examples of disruptive elements:

  • Food intolerances
  • Diarrhea
  • Poorly managed stress
  • Constipation
  • Digestive tract infections
  • Inflammation
  • Antibiotics

Any food ingested is subject to the recognition of the immune system, of which a little more than 75% is found at the digestive level, before being accepted and then assimilated.

All this shows how nutrition affects the microbiome and its importance. For more information, read our other article How can our food choices affect bacteria in our digestive system and our health?

Attention for food intolerance

Any disturbance of the ecosystem can distort the recognition of this food by the intestinal immune system which then becomes responsible for a food intolerance.

This process very often participates in the occurrence of functional or pathological disorders and must be taken into account in the dietary advice given.

The intestinal ecosystem is therefore an essential and priority element in our health. The intestinal microbiota is the basic element.

Taking care of and protecting this ecosystem involves rebalancing and supporting the microbiota.

The management is done by specific food supplements:

  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics

The weak point of cell protection

Cellular protection is an essential element for the survival of the cell.

Our cells use oxygen to provide the necessary energy to ensure our needs. This oxygen is reduced to water, but some of it escapes the complete transformation and gives molecules that are very aggressive for our cells.

These molecules, the free radicals, also help us defend ourselves by activating the immune response.

Heavy metals, pollution, tobacco, irradiation (UV, X-rays), drugs, infections, inflammation, etc., are major sources of free radicals.

Faced with these aggressive molecules, the organism has antiradical defenses:

  • The antiradical system
  • The Heat Shock Protein System

The antiradical system

The antiradical system consists of two lines of defense:

  • Enzymatic, whose synthesis depends on our genetic capacities, but whose functioning requires cofactors like selenium, copper, manganese, zinc, iron, etc.
  • Non-enzymatic, with free radical scavengers such as vitamins A, E, C and flavonoids.

It is the diet that provides the body with antioxidant molecules. They are very diverse in nature. We do not know how to synthesize most of them.

Therefore, it is necessary to draw them from food, particularly from fruits and vegetables, that have them in large amounts.

Thus, food plays an important role in the proper functioning of these two systems by providing enzymatic cofactors for the first line of defense and free radical scavengers such as certain vitamins and flavonoids for the second line of defense.

The quality of our food and the capacity to assimilate it will determine the effectiveness of our means of defense. In a nutshell, this shows how nutrition affects the microbiome.

An unbalanced diet, poor in fruits and vegetables (of low micronutritional density), is likely to be responsible for insufficient antiradical protection.

It can lead to degenerative diseases (osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, etc.) but also to complications of metabolic diseases.

The weak point of cellular communication

Cellular communication is based on the cell membrane, a zone of intercellular and intracellular separation.

It is at the level of the membrane that all information circulates within the cell and between cells.

Through it, information is transmitted, allowing communication between cells, tissues, organs, and systems. It is also thanks to it that nutrients penetrate into the cell environment.

However, this membrane is essentially composed of lipids. The functioning of the membrane, and thus of cell communication, is closely dependent on the structural quality of the membrane, i.e. the quality of its fatty acid composition.

This is mainly due to the nutritional value of the seasoning oils.

Essential fatty acids (linoleic acid, leader of the omega-6s, and alpha-linolenic acid, leader of the omega-3s) must be consumed daily in order to ensure good membrane quality and, consequently, good cellular communication.

Any imbalance in lipid intake in the daily diet affects the quality of the membrane. And this is how nutrition affect the microbiome when it comes to our brain.

Linking the function and structure of the membrane

They depend on the quality and quantity of essential fatty acids in your daily diet.

The choice of food oils, the quality of digestion, assimilation and transport of lipid nutrients condition all the hormonal, nervous, immune and metabolic mechanisms depending on the membrane.

It has been shown that the ratio of linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid should be less than 3. In addition, a low ratio provides better cardiovascular protection.

The Western diet, which tends to provide much more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, promotes pathologies such as inflammation, allergy, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and visual disorders.

An ideal ratio in the diet between omega-6 and omega-3 would be lower than 4/1, whereas it is estimated, in our countries, between 9/1 and 31/1.

This high ratio is due in particular to the intensive breeding of animals fed with corn or sunflower cakes, rich in omega-6, and no longer with the usual plants such as grass, clover and alfalfa, sources of omega-3.

Our physiology, biochemistry and genes are adapted to a lower ratio.

This recommendation is undoubtedly the most important: Eat 2 to 3 tablespoons of rapeseed oil or a mixture of rapeseed and walnut oil, preferably organic and first cold-pressed, to satisfy this necessary intake.

The weak point of the brain

The brain can be represented schematically as an inanimate black box composed of fat, whose functional unit is the neuron.

For this black box to survive, it must receive a supply of oxygen and glucose.

For thought, emotions and behavior to occur, the presence of neuromediators, the messenger molecules of our brain, is necessary. The origin of these molecules is directly from your plate and their transformation by our metabolism.

Three neurotransmitters play an important role in managing our behavior, mood and thoughts:

  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Dopamine

These neurotransmitters are synthesized in the brain from two amino acids that are supplied by the diet.

Animal and vegetable proteins are the sources of these two amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan:

  • The precursor tyrosine is transformed in the brain into dopamine and noradrenaline.
  • The precursor tryptophan is transformed in the brain into serotonin and melatonin.

Your diet therefore influences your behavior and the functioning of your brain. And we can understand how does nutrition affect the microbiome.

Thus, inappropriate nutritional intakes can lead to functional disturbances of varying intensity.

Inadequate protein intake is responsible for a deficit in precursor supply and may be responsible for behavioral, mood or cognitive impairment, as our precursor requirements are increased in the presence of chronic stress and inflammation.

The brain will depend on the balance of cell protection (another weak point), ensuring the survival of the functional unit of the brain, the neuron, and its networks.

It also depends on the cell membrane and communication (another weak point) which are the structural elements of this organ.

And finally, the transformation of neuromediator precursors in the brain requires the presence of enzymatic cofactors, provided by the diet, the availability of which depends on a good assimilation (another weak point).

All this makes it clearer to understand how nutrition affects the microbiome.

How does nutrition affect the microbiome? Conclusion

By explaining the four weak points, we can trace back their problems to lack of proper fuel.

Taking a micronutritional approach, it seems logical to analyze the way you eat and the impact of your diet on the weak points and the whole of your body.

In such a way you can reverse the damage caused and prevent any further maladies in this regard, simply by understanding how does nutrition affect the microbiome.

About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More