How Does the Diversity of Intestinal Microbiota Contribute to Health?

Heather Campbell
 min read

With our gut being called the second brain, the diversity of intestinal microbiota plays an essential role in our well-being.

How Does the Diversity of Intestinal Microbiota Contribute to Health?With our modern lifestyle, the diversity of our microbiota is undermined.

As a whole it is crucial to preserve our microbiota biodiversity, composed of billions of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and non-pathogenic fungi that colonize our digestive tract. Changes to our dietary habits can threaten this diversity, and therefore also our mental and physical well-being.

It is essential to preserve the diversity of our intestinal microbiota since the billions of bacteria that live in symbiosis in our body play a fundamental role in the proper functioning of our body.

Diversity of intestinal microbiota: Introduction

It is crucial to preserve the biodiversity of our microbiota which is composed of billions of bacteria, viruses, parasites and non-pathogenic fungi that colonize our digestive tract.

This world, which imposes itself on us, can be a precious ally in our well-being and longevity.

However, the microbiota can also behave like a criminal entity that jeopardizes our health and lives if dangerous bacteria develop or protective bacteria disappear.

Source: Duvallet, et al., Meta-analysis of gut microbiome studies identifies disease-specific and shared responses, Nature Communications, 2017

In this article, we will try to understand why it is essential to monitor the biodiversity of our intestinal flora.

The biodiversity of our intestinal microbiota is in danger

The role of our genetic heritage

Very early in the life of a human being, genetic heritage will intervene in the selection of micro-organisms that will use the shelter of our digestive tract and its advantages such as heat, humidity or food assimilation.

The choices of genetic heritage will determine a personalized intestinal microbiota. Still, they are also optimal in their adaptation with characteristics that each person has in multiple areas, such as:

  • The quality of our intestinal barrier
  • Food tastes
  • The equipment allowing us to maximize our food in terms of energy, production and storage of building materials for our body.

Then, following the turmoil of a highly evolving environment, our microbiota will undergo numerous destabilizing attacks with the risk of developing lasting and dangerous dysbiosis.

Even in healthy people, it will keep in the genes of its micro-organisms the memory of prolonged dietary errors or exposure to toxic products.

Sources:

Our diet has changed over time

The simple but high-fiber meals of our hunter-gatherer ancestors preserved the richness of their intestinal microbiota.

Indeed, this type of diet strengthened their resilience and mental health in uncertain and violent times that come in a dangerous environment.

Secondly, contemporary life, especially in the big cities of the world and the privileged regions, has made hygienic and safe food available to us, but with poor quality and significantly unbalanced.

The latter is rich in salt, sugars and fats, well beyond our energy needs as we adopt an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

This type of diet has distanced us, without our being aware of it, from the environmental constraints of our intestinal microbiota, which has been greatly depleted and transformed.

Man has considerably reduced our Earth’s biodiversity in a few decades in our environment, either out of ignorance, the need to satisfy immediate pleasures, greed, or simply out of an inability to think of the future.

The “modern” way of life of man has led to sanitized food, an excess of fats and sugar, but also to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the veterinary field to allow for concentrated breeding or for rapid weight gain in animals.

Consequently, man is in the process of destroying the biodiversity of the intestinal microbiota.

This depletion will lead to the explosion of allergic, autoimmune and metabolic diseases from which our current civilization suffers.

Researchers have recently decided to set up a “biobank” whose role is to preserve the vibrant intestinal flora of populations that have kept a traditional way of life.

Source: Rabesandratana, Microbiome conservancy stores global fecal samples, Science, 2018

These studies have left the legal ownership of their flora to these populations.

Indeed, the study of about 4,000 strains from Africa and the Arctic has allowed the identification of:

  • 55 bacteria of an unknown genus, and
  • the disappearance in Western populations of bacterial families important in metabolic regulation.

This impoverishment could also contribute to the high incidence of overweight-induced diseases in developed societies.

These include diabetes, cardiovascular complications and fatty liver disease.

However, human life expectancy has steadily increased for over sixty years despite this ecological disaster.

This increase is mainly due to medical advances, particularly in the fight against infectious diseases.

Two researchers have contributed significantly to this: Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming, the former for vaccinations and the latter, antibiotics.

These are both powerful weapons to reinforce our natural defenses against infections which were, along with famines and wars, one of the major causes of mortality at the time.

Demographic growth should be considered

Before these discoveries, however, the high human mortality was compensated by a very high birth rate. With them, population growth has accelerated considerably.

In the year 1000, the Earth had about 300 million inhabitants, and the first billion inhabitants were reached in the 1800s.

In 1980, we were 4.5 billion human beings. Currently, there are almost 8 billion people on Earth.

Every day, our planet continues to be enriched with approximately 200,000 new human beings.

Even if our way of consuming and our modes of feeding weigh very heavily in the depletion of the Earth’s resources, the impact of the exponential demographic growth is not insignificant.

Due to a rise in the standard of living of its increasingly numerous inhabitants, the price our planet paid has been significant.

This translates into the pollution of land and sea environments, depletion of freshwater reserves, a major climate crisis threat, and the extinction of multiple species.

Controlled consumption for future generations?

If we do not react to the threat, these changes may quickly become irreversible.

Indeed, they could hit future generations hard and set men against each other very quickly.

As a result, many scientists have repeatedly called for respecting the Earth’s resources, reducing our consumption fever, and controlling our population.

Humanity will have to show intelligence, self-confidence, wisdom and resilience to face the challenges presented to future generations.

The sedentary nature of our lifestyle, our rich, unbalanced diet, and the weight of the screens that have interposed themselves between reality and our psychic world will quickly weaken us in the face of the obstacles of the chaotic road that opens to us.

The alterations that our lifestyle has caused in the diversity and richness of our environment and our gut microbiota can become heavy handicaps.

This can weaken us in the face of infections, immunological or metabolic disorders, our emotional and cognitive balance, and perhaps even the quality of our social relationships, which will be at the heart of success.

Diversity of intestinal microbiota: Conclusion

It is essential to learn how to cultivate and preserve the microbiota diversity that inhabits our intestines throughout our lives.

Genetic inheritance, population growth, and our lifestyle and consumption patterns all impact the biodiversity of our microbiota.

Our challenge will be to become the “gardeners” of our “little bugs” (i.e., bacteria) as part of a cultural and medical revolution.

However, this revolution will not be possible without also embracing and protecting our planet’s biodiversity, maintaining it and respecting it.

As informed adults, we should be the responsible guardians of both the micro-organisms that inhabit us and the planet at large.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, 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