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Gut microbiota: see how gut health can affect the whole body

Everyone must have heard or said the expressions “I felt butterflies in my stomach” and “my heart sank” without realizing that they were referring to the intestine, and without knowing how important it really is for the body. proper functioning of the body. Now science is unraveling how the millions of microorganisms that live there – the so-called microbiota – impact various aspects of people’s lives, health, weight and even mood.

The intestine is increasingly being seen as an ally in the treatment of systemic diseases, such as obesity, cancer, allergies, respiratory and dermatological problems. “We feel ashamed of him, but we are so connected to the gut that it shows in our communication. It’s no surprise that the intestine is considered our second brain”, says Diogo Toledo, nutritionist at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.

In fact, there is a direct connection between these two organs through a type of “cable” – the vagus nerve –, which controls everything from the heart rate to the movements of the digestive tract. This is one of the reasons why, when a person is scared or under stress, they feel abdominal pain or want to vomit, for example.

Furthermore, recent research highlights the role of the microbiome, the set of bacteria, fungi, viruses – as well as their genes and metabolites – that live in our body, mainly in the intestine (the term microbiota refers only to microorganisms). More numerous than the body's own cells, they help with digestion, metabolizing nutrients, form a defense barrier against pathogens and fulfill an immunological function, modulating the inflammatory response. “The microbiota may be the key to many unanswered questions in science,” says Toledo.

When, for some reason, there is an increase in harmful microorganisms or a reduction in beneficial ones, an imbalance occurs – dysbiosis – and the microbiota stops performing its tasks properly. A bad environment worsens the nutrient absorption process and the metabolization of medicines. It can also intensify inflammatory reactions, with the exaggerated release of immune cells and inflammatory cytokines into the bloodstream. This content reaches organs such as the brain, kidneys, skin, heart and liver, and can amplify the response of some conditions.

This explains why the intestinal microbiota has been linked to the exacerbation of problems such as acne, obesity, allergic rhinitis, eczema, candidiasis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety. To give you an idea, research shows that people with atopic dermatitis have a lower diversity of intestinal bacteria than those without the disease.

Microbiota is unique to each individual

The microbiota begins to form during intrauterine life and depends on factors such as the mother's habits, whether the child was breastfed and even the type of delivery. It is then affected by lifestyle, including diet, physical activity, smoking, use of medications (mainly antibiotics), stress, lack of vitamin D and aging itself. “Its composition is unique to each individual. It’s like a signature”, says Toledo. Furthermore, it varies throughout life.

Symptoms related to bowel habits (such as diarrhea and constipation), bloating and gas, among others, signal that there is an imbalance. The doctor may also order more specific stool laboratory tests if problems are suspected.

The Einstein doctor explains that rebalancing the microbiota requires a change in lifestyle. “But sometimes this may not be enough”, says the nutritionist. In these cases, it is possible to use probiotics, which contain specific microorganisms in their formula, and prebiotics, which are the fibers that feed these microorganisms and stimulate their development. These are different products from those found in supermarkets. They must be prescribed by a doctor or nutritionist and results appear in around 90 days, at least.

Some studies also show that supplementation can improve constipation and reduce attacks of eczema, rhinitis and wheezing in some cases, in addition to alleviating symptoms of depression.

Source: CNN Brasil

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