Did you know that your gut health is connected to many aspects of your overall health? It’s a very complex part of the body with 100 trillion bacteria—more than in any other part of the body. This group of bacteria is known as the gut microbiota, and they have become a particular focus for researchers who are aiming to learn exactly how this system influences and even improves health.

Gut Microbiota is Unique for Every Individual

About 1,000 different species exist in those trillions of bacteria, representing around 5,000 specific strains. With so many kinds of bacteria, all guts are unique, but certain combinations have been found in the healthiest individuals. There are a variety of factors that impact a gut, including age, diet, genes, the environment, and medications.

What Gut Microbiota Does

Gut microbiota has several different roles in the body. It metabolizes nutrients from the food you eat and the medications you take. It also serves as a barrier against intestinal infections, and produces vitamin K, which is a building block of blood-clotting proteins. These factors are now known, but gut microbiota may do even more. Research, mostly involving animals, suggests it could be associated with overall health. The challenge is determining which actual species or strains have these unique properties.

Latest Findings Signify Microbiota is the Most Important Part of the Gastrointestinal System

New developments have been made in the study of microbiota. Two studies from the Mayo Clinic infer gut bacteria could predict if a person is more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Additionally, it could be a means to determine the best treatment for the condition. Researcher Veena Taneja, Ph.D. published two studies related to the subject in Genome Medicine and Arthritis and Rheumatology. The Genome Medicine published study reports that researchers were able to isolate specific bacteria that that had high populations in RA patients, while finding they were low in healthy individuals.

Cardiovascular and heart health are additional body systems connected to gut health. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology links gut microbiota and gut permeability to the vascular system. In experimentation with mice, reduced levels of A muciniphila increased the likelihood of arterial plaque buildup. The findings also suggested that dietary prebiotics could increase the abundance of A muciniphila, thus decreasing plaque buildup and the resulting inflammation.

Microbiota Communicates with the Immune System

Another positive impact of balanced gut health is how the microbiota communicates with the immune system. There have already been discoveries about the relationship, and they are laying the foundation for possible future applications. More trials of probiotics and prebiotics is necessary to reach this possibility.

Probiotics Encourage Good Gut Health

The gut flora is important to a variety of the body’s functions with 70% of the immune cells located in the digestive tract. This means that gut health is essential to overall health. A healthy, well-balanced gut flora helps with digestion, protects from pathogens, delivers vitamins and nutrients, and is part of the immune system. To reap the benefits of good gut health, probiotics are vital.

Probiotics are those bacteria referred to as “good” or “beneficial.” Probiotic bacteria may be consumed in foods or supplements. When consumed through food or supplements, probiotics are able to thrive in the intestinal environment and provide benefits that aid in digestion and support normal bowel function. Learn more about probiotics and how they impact gut health by checking out this Probiotics 101.