What is microbiota and why is it so important for our health and sports performance?

Did you know that 100 billion bacteria live in your intestine? You are the center of your kingdom, but if your bacteria agreed, you would lose in a democratic vote! And by a lot, so it’s better to take care of your microbiote, know it and pamper it, because your health, your energy and even your mood depend on the balance of the microorganisms that live in your intestine.

The microorganisms that live in your body don’t just strengthen your defences and make sure you go to the bathroom regularly. You live with them from the moment you are born and they take part in many vital functions for your health. Today we are talking about the intestinal microbiota, formerly called intestinal flora, an organ that inhabits your digestive system and which is also key to balancing cholesterol and glucose, strengthening defences and improving your sporting performance.

The microbiota is the set of microorganisms that coexist in a certain habitat, in this case, in the human intestine, and that plays roles in nutrition and metabolism, but also protection and development of the body. We also know it, although incorrectly, as intestinal flora and it is equivalent to about 2 kg of body weight.

The microbiota is acquired at birth and changes with age, type of diet, where you live, taking some medicines such as antibiotics and lifestyle habits.

In the digestive system there are more than a thousand bacterial species. More than half the weight of the matter found in your colon corresponds to bacterial cells, their number is ten times higher than all the cells of the tissues that make up the human body.

Most of these microorganisms are located along the digestive tract, with the highest concentration in the colon. Bacterial colonization of the intestine begins at birth and continues throughout life with notable changes depending on age. Throughout life the composition of the digestive microbiota increases, both in diversity and richness, and reaches its maximum development in adulthood with a bacterial composition that remains relatively stable throughout life. Although the composition is individual, varying from person to person, there is a stable number of genera and bacterial species called “enterotypes”.

The composition and functions of the microbiome depend on many lifestyle factors that, in turn, determine health status and risk of developing eating and behavioural disorders. These factors include diet, eating habits, antibiotic intake, and even type of delivery (whether vaginal or by cesarean section), as well as age and sex.

All of this can influence the communication and functions of the intestine, brain, and peripheral tissues, such as the liver, pancreas, and adipose tissue.

Unlike the human genome, which has a 0.1% variation between individuals, the intestinal microbiome can vary more than 50% between healthy people, and even more so if you have an intestinal disorder. This indicates that life and eating habits play an important role in changing populations of the intestinal microbiota, being able to transform a healthy phenotype into a sick person and vice versa.

For example, studies carried out in humans show that the obese phenotype possesses a characteristic intestinal microbiota and that when this person loses weight with diet and exercise in a healthy and permanent way, the ‘obese type microbiota’ is replaced by the typical ‘normal weight microbiota’.

The genome of the intestinal microbiota is the microbiome.

To study the microbial ecology of bacterial communities, the metagenomic approach is considered the best method. **Metagenomics is the study of microbial communities through base sequencing, functional and/or compositional analysis of all microbial genomes contained in a sample. ** The alteration in eating patterns, as well as age and genetics, not only affects the energy balance, but also has a greater impact on the modification of the intestinal microbiota and on the expression of genes in it.

Now you can take a test of your microbiome from home.

A microbiome test is an analysis of the DNA of the microorganisms present in a stool sample and allows you to know the genes of the microorganisms that make up your microbiota, by massive sequencing of a marker (rRNA subunit 16S). Identify each type of bacteria and its proportion in each person.

The test can be done from home, it is bought online and it is enough to introduce a minimum amount of faeces in the special tube that you have received and send it by mail to the laboratory for analysis. After 15-20 days you receive a report with the results of your microbiome. A very complete analysis with the identity and abundance of microorganisms present in the intestine, which allows you to know the diversity of your bacteria and detect possible alterations.

Knowing your microbiote helps you in case there is an imbalance that is causing your health problems. With the data, you can receive an individualized recommendation of the nutritional solutions that can help you, probiotics and other specific bioactive ingredients for you, which can act and modify the composition in cases of: gluten intolerance, cholesterol reduction, glucose control, digestive and intestinal discomfort, improvement of defenses and intestinal regularity.

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