Diet and the Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome is incredibly complex and varied. Are you interested in learning more about it? We'll tell you about it in this article.
Diet and the Gut Microbiome

Last update: 01 March, 2021

Although they’re invisible without the help of a microscope, the trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome are very important to our health. Also, it’s important to note that these microbes are present throughout the body, but the gut microbiome has the highest concentration of bacteria.

Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome plays an important role in the development of several chronic diseases. For example, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

In addition, we know that diet also plays a role in the microbiome. So, changes in our diet can cause temporary microbial changes within a 24-hour period. As a result, changing our microbial composition through our diets could have significant therapeutic benefits.

What is the microbiome?

The human microbiome is the set of microscopic organisms present in our body. This microbiome encompasses 1,1014 resident microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Generally, bacteria are the most predominant microorganisms and have the greatest influence on our health.

Human microbiome.

How does it work?

Most microorganisms live within the most distal parts of the digestive system. The microbes in our gut contribute to our health by providing us with essential vitamins and amino acids. In addition, it contributes metabolic by-products from food particles that remain undigested in the small intestine. 

By-products consist of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate. These act as a main source of energy for intestinal epithelial cells and could, therefore, strengthen the mucosal barrier.

Additionally, a study published in the journal Cell that used germ-free mice, suggests that the microbiota directly promotes local intestinal immunity. These benefits, and others, have led to a growing interest in the ability to modify our gut microbiota.

A sharp change in diet, for example to a strictly meat-eating or vegetarian diet, alters its composition within as little as 24 hours. Then, 48 hours after discontinuing the diet, it’ll go back to its previous condition.

Change your diet and you’ll change your microbiome

Researchers have recently focused on how we can change our intestinal microbiota through diet to improve our health. In fact, when it comes to intestinal microbiota, it’s fairly easy to change its composition in terms of bacterial population.

In addition, various studies have shown that two weeks of dietary intervention can significantly change the nature of the gut microbiota’s composition in humans.

Probiotics.

Probiotics, as defined by the World Health Organization, are “live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit for the host.” In addition, they can be used to successfully modify or change our intestinal microbiota.

Recent evidence shows that we can change the intestinal microbiota through the use of probiotics. And, this change can reduce chronic inflammation, restore micro-ecology and normalize the intestinal mucosa’s permeability, or even act as immunomodulators. 

However, more studies are necessary in order to develop diets and nutritional supplements with preventative and therapeutic capacities. In addition, we will need safety studies aimed at detecting the possible risks of prolonged treatment with probiotics.

The future of the gut microbiome and nutrition

The human microbiome is incredibly complex and varied. In fact, there are many things that we still don’t know about the microorganisms that live in our bodies.

One of the research areas of the microbiota deals with studying the microbiome using “omics” technologies. These are sophisticated techniques that use modern computer systems to analyze large groups of data related to a specific area of biology.

In the specific case of gut microbiome research, it’s interesting to look at the set of genes involved in the microbiome, and analyze how the different compounds in the gut interact. That is to say that these technologies help us better understand the amazing variety of microbes that exist in the digestive tract. 

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