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Microbiota and immunity
Your health starts in your microbiota
Intestinal flora, gut flora, microflora… All these terms refer to the community of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract of all mammals including you. They are fundamental to your well-being.
Maintains digestive balance
A balanced microbiota supports digestive function, the transformation of food into energy, and also helps with detoxification. An imbalance in the microbiota is a marker for various diseases and is often the origin of digestive discomfort.
Supports the immune system
It is estimated that 80% of immune cells are located in the intestinal mucosa. A healthy and balanced microbiota strengthens the intestinal barrier by regulating the absorption of both molecules and organisms into our body.
Your second brain
50% of the dopamine and 95% of the serotonin that we produce are formed in the intestine. These substances are related to happiness and good humour. An increase in their levels can be used as an indicator of improvement in depression and anxiety.
Why is it so important?
Your microbiota, just like your fingerprints, is unique. Your microbiota defines and differentiates you, and comprises a complex ecosystem, your body; the sum of countless organisms balanced and aligned with you, living as your guests.
The human microbiota is made up of 10-100 trillion microbial cells that live symbiotically in each person’s gut, mainly made up of bacteria. The bacterial community in the colon represents the largest fraction of the human microbiota, where it is estimated that there are between 400 and 1500 species of bacteria.
The functions of this immense bacterial community are:
- Regulation of the body’s immune response.
- Involvement in the production of vitamins.
- Participation in the regulation of lipid metabolism.
- Contributes to the production of short chain fatty acids.
Intestinal bacteria for diagnosis
Intestinal Microbiota: an indicator of intestinal health
Microbiologist and Nobel laureate, Professor Elie Metchnikoff, said that most diseases begin in the digestive tract. According to him, this happens when “good” bacteria are unable to control “bad” bacteria.
In the last few years, research has demonstrated the influence of the microbiota in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal inflammation, and celiac disease, as well as in non-gut related psychiatric disorders, obesity, allergies, asthma and various cardiovascular conditions.
In the case of the complaints listed above, dysbiosis occurs; an imbalance that has been linked to the development of different diseases, including a number of chronic diseases.
Our professional mycotherapy specialist advisors can provide tailored advice and mycotherapy protocols using Hifas da Terra organic mushroom products.
Health problems associated with microbiota dysbiosis
A diet with low or no fibre content, excessive alcohol consumption, regular ingestion of ultra-processed foods and the abuse of antibiotics have been linked to dysbiosis and the development of various diseases:
- Diets rich in fats, polyunsaturated fatty acids and industrial meat have been linked to a higher incidence of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- The development of colorectal cancer has been associated with levels of inflammation and structural changes in the microbiota. The origin of these changes could be related to the growth of sulphate reducing bacteria that derive from excess consumption of red meat.
- Fibre-rich diets increase the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are beneficial for the epithelium of the large intestine (colonocytes) and also have antitumor properties.
- The risk of suffering from inflammatory bowel disease can be reduced by regulating the intestinal microbiota with a vegetarian diet.
How to regain intestinal balance
A growing number of nutritionists recommend an increase in fibre consumption from whole food sources by increasing intake of mushrooms, fruit, seeds, vegetables and whole grains to maintain a better state of health.
The consumption of these indigestible carbohydrates (polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, and lignins) provides fuel for beneficial intestinal bacteria to produce SCFAs, which protect the intestinal barrier from pathogenic organisms.
- Improved intestinal transit
- Optimal mineral absorption
- Immune system regulation
- Appetite balance
- Regulation of glucose and lipid levels
Mediterranean and Atlantic Diets
According to various scientific reviews, how we eat has an important impact on the composition of our microbiota. Western diets, such as the standard Western diet, or the standard American diet are not generally considered to be optimum diets for a good state of health, with a couple of exceptions.
For example, the traditional Mediterranean and Atlantic diets are two subtypes of Western diets that are considered exceptions and considered adequate for the maintenance of a good state of health:
- The Mediterranean diet has been associated with significant protection from chronic degenerative diseases.
- The Atlantic diet has been associated with metabolic health and a decrease in mortality caused by coronary heart disease and some types of cancer. The inclusion of group B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and iodine could be responsible for these effects.
Prebiotics and probiotics
The consumption of prebiotic substances can control intestinal dysbiosis by encouraging the growth of Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. In addition, they help prevent pathogenic cells from adhering to the cells of the intestinal mucosa.
According to several studies, probiotics improve the function of the intestinal barrier and prevent the adhesion and colonisation of pathogens and toxins.
The combination of both prebiotics with probiotics is often used to address various pathologies.
More recently, phagotherapy – the use of bacteriophages or phagocytes (viruses that infect bacteria) – and faecal microbiota transplants have been showing promising results.
Hifas da Terra and Vall d’Hebron University Hospital of Barcelona
Hifas da Terra leads the collaborative R&D Micromarker project which evaluates the relationship between modulation of the intestinal microbiota and the progression of colorectal cancer. In addition, the study will explore the effect of the use of fungi-derived prebiotics and anti-inflammatory compounds on the quality of life of patients.
The second brain
Since the 1970s, various studies have been published evidencing the validity of the gut-brain axis, and how it can affect global functioning despite the blood-brain barrier.
It has also been shown that chemicals produced by intestinal bacteria have an influence on the immune system and these, in turn, on the brain.
Alterations in bacterial communities have also been observed in animal models when the animals were subjected to stressful situations.
On a higher level, we can talk about the microbiome. Although microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings. The microbiome is the sum of the microbiota, as well as its genes, metabolites and the specific environment that surrounds them.
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- Eloísa Salvo-Romero et al. (2015) Función barrera intestinal y su implicación en enfermedades digestivas. Rev Esp Enferm Dig (Madrid) Vol. 107, N.º 11, pp. 686-696.
- Esther Molina Montes (2018) Microbioma, microbiota y cáncer. SEBBM. Grupo de Epidemiología Genética y Molecular, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO).
- Friedman M (2015) Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds. J Agric Food Chem. Aug 19;63(32):7108-23.
- Harmsen HJ et al. (2016)The Human Gut Microbiota.Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;902:95-108.
- Niv Zmora et al. (2019) Transforming medicine with the microbiome. Science Translational Medicine. Vol. 11, Issue 477.
- Valerio Iebba et al. (2016) Eubiosis and dysbiosis: the two sides of the microbiota. New Microbiologica, 39, 1-12.