Intestinal microbiota: golden rules for ideal digestion

Beatrice Rakoschnik

Beatrice Rakosnik

Nutritionist and co-founder of Caldos Cooldo.

Each ecosystem of the human body is filled with millions of microorganisms that regulate its functions. This is microbiota. First of all, the intestinal tract is necessary for good digestion.

April 22, 2024 / 09:30

The term “microbiota” covers communities of living microorganisms that are located throughout our body: the digestive tract, respiratory tract, skin, genitourinary area… These are bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi or protozoa that have a beneficial effect on our bodily functions.

Our microbiota is unique. It accompanies us from the womb and leaves develops with us, adapting to our habits and environment. In general, these microorganisms live with us in symbiosis until they stop doing so. Changes in our lifestyle habits (ultra-processed foods, stress or abuse Antibiotics) cause changes in the microbiota that cause everything from digestive problems to imbalances or dysbiosis. And this can lead to immune pathologies: immune dysregulation occurs, leading to chronic inflammation, which underlies many of the pathologies that currently plague Western societies.

Specifically, the gut microbiota consists of the microbes that live in our intestines. We still know very little about this ecosystem, and bacteria are the best known and most studied microorganisms.

Intestinal bacteria can be divided into types. The two most common are Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, which account for 90 percent of gut microorganisms. The remaining 10 percent consists of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria and Verrucomicrobia, as well as several species from the Archaea domain.

Although there are bacteria with more positive effects and bacteria with more negative effects, they should all be present in optimal quantities. The key is balance.

What functions does our microbiota perform?

Microbiota helps us digest food and absorb nutrients. In fact, gut bacteria feed primarily on carbohydrates and ferment them, producing substances that are good for us, such as the famous short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate and acetate). They also help us absorb essential nutrients such as calcium or iron.

The gut microbiota synthesizes vitamins such as vitamin K or B vitamins that we cannot synthesize.

These microorganisms also train and modulate our immune system. In fact, they communicate with it and, in a state of eubiosis, contribute to the tolerogenic response of our immune system.

Our microbiota also metabolizes xenobiotics. and hormones. This helps us eliminate them from the body, although with dysbiosis they can reactivate them, increasing the toxicity of our body.

Equally important, it protects the integrity of the intestinal barrier, preventing it from changing and causing the dreaded intestinal hyperpermeability.

A balanced microbiota prevents pathogen colonization. On the one hand, it competes with these microorganisms for substrate and space and at the same time produces bactericidal substances.

Last but not least, there is a two-way communication between our microbiota and our brain. It affects our nervous system and our mood, and vice versa.

How to take care of your intestinal microbiota?

There are four factors that negatively affect the gut microbiota: poor diet, overuse of antibiotics, uncontrolled stress and lack of rest. But by following some simple recommendations, you can ensure that the small microorganisms that make up the microbiota will continue to successfully perform their festive function.

Feeding. The influence of diet on the composition of the gut microbiota is one of the most determining factors over which we can influence. Changes in diet can explain about 60% of the total variation in the structure of the intestinal microbiota.

  • Avoid ultra-processed foods rich in sugar/sweeteners, oxidized fats and additives.
  • Eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are indigestible and fermentable fibers. which feed beneficial bacteria in intestines, benefiting human health. Include foods rich in fructans (garlic, onion, artichoke), resistant starch (green bananas, sweet potatoes and chilled potatoes), beta-glucans (oats, mushrooms), pectin (apple, carrots, pear) or mucilage (flax, chia).
  • Focus on foods rich in probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in sufficient quantities, benefit those who consume them by improving the microbial balance of the gut. We can find them in our diet in fermented foods. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, or pickles are good sources of probiotics. Make sure you eat a variety of these foods to get different strains of beneficial bacteria.
  • Eat foods rich in polyphenols such as spices, red fruits, green tea and cocoa. Are antioxidant compounds What They help balance the intestinal microbiota.

Antibiotics. Avoid overuse of antibiotics and medications: Antibiotics can change the gut microbiota as they destroy both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Always take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, and consider using probiotics during and after antibiotic treatment to help restore your gut microbiota..

Stress management. Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiota. Practice techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing. and exercises to help you cope with stress.

Sufficient rest. Sleep plays a critical role in gut health. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and make sure you get enough sleep each night to keep your microbiota healthy.

Beatrice Rakoschnik
Nutritionist, health coach and psychoneuroimmunologist. Along with Maria Goyanes, she is the founding partner of Cooldo, a company that produces 100% organic broths high in protein and collagen.

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