The intestinal microbiota
1. What is the intestinal microbiota?
3. Microbiota and wellbeing of the body -> Dysbiosis
4. Common gastrointestinal disorders
What is the intestinal microbiota
In the past, the term intestinal flora was used to refer to all the bacteriapresent in this environmentwith various beneficial functions for the body.. Today, especially among scientists, this term has been replaced with“microbiota”, defined as the set of microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, but also fungi, protozoa and viruses, present in the body, in perfect symbiosis with humans.
The microbial communities living in the body vary greatly from person to person, making up a kind of “digital fingerprint” of each individual.
According to various studies, microorganisms start to colonise the intestine during foetal development, passing through the placenta.
The first year of life is then crucial for the development of the intestinal microbiota, whose composition is influenced by many factors, including the type of birth (natural or caesarean), feeding (breast milk or formula), the presence of diseases, use of medicines, etc.
From around 3 years of age, the microbiota takes a form similar to that of adults and remains fairly stable over time, even though various factors can affect its composition.
What is the role of the intestinal microbiota?
The microbiota influences many areas of health, including energy metabolism and boosting the immune system.
The main functions of the microbiota are to:
- Prevent harmful microorganisms from populating the intestine excessively,,thanks to “competition” from the beneficial intestinal flora (“barrier effect”)
- Nurture the development and maturing of the immune system
- Help to regulate intestinal motility
- Synthesise certain vitamins,including vitamin K, folic acid and vitamin B12
- Use fibres ingested in our diet to produce short-chain fatty acids, especiallybutyratewhich serves as nourishment for colon cells and supplies energy to the body
Microbiota and well-being of the body -> -> Dysbiosis
When the intestinal microbiota is in balance, its metabolic and protective functions make it an important ally for our health.
However, there are several factors that can contribute to microbiota imbalance, also known as dysbiosis:
Poor nutrition; imbalanced diet
– Lack of physical activity/sedentary lifestyle
– Lifestyle habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
– Drug use – antiobiotics, and drugs to control cholesterol (e.g. statins), diabetes (e.g. metformin), heartburn (e.g. proton-pump inhibitors), and others.
Dysbiosis is defined as a change in the composition of the intestinal microbiota that could lead to dysfunction and/or diseases as it interrupts the optimal symbiotic relationship between humans and microorganisms. Specifically, it involves a reduction in so-called “good” bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and an increase in bacteria that areor may be harmful for the body.
This change can cause a number of primarily gastrointestinal symptomssuch as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal swelling, flatulence, nausea, vomiting or poor digestion.
Common gastrointestinal disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders frequently occur in the colon and rectum.
Some of the most common gastrointestinal disorders are: diarrhoea, abdominal swelling, stomach ache and lazy bowel syndrome (constipation).