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World Microbiome Day: How Diet Shapes Your Gut Microbiome

Today, June 27th is World Microbiome Day, and this year’s theme is “Feed your microbes – How diet shapes your gut microbiome.”

Microbes play a vital role in our lives, even if we don’t always notice them. They make our bread rise, help seeds grow, and support our gut health. Microbes significantly impact human health, animals, the plant kingdom, and the planet.

The food we consume helps create new cells in our bodies. Food also contains substrates for the mutualistic microbial flora, which will shape the gut microbiome1.  Diet and microorganisms from the environment can alter the gut microbiome, affecting its structure, composition, and function1. It also interacts with the epithelium and mucosal immune system1,3. The gut microbiome will maintain intestinal homeostasis in a healthy state, and a diverse and well-structured gut microbiome is crucial for maintaining good health1.

During the first year of life, the diet changes significantly. For Neonatal babies, the microbiota is simple at birth, primarily influenced by breast milk, and develops complexity as the diet diversifies1. The first period of life is vital for the gut microbiota to establish, both short-term and long-term2,3.

Bacteria from the genus Bifidobacterium usually dominate the microbiota of breastfed infants. Specific strains of the bacteria have specialised in digesting sugar from breast milk, which produces a fermentation process in the stomach and creates fatty acid acetate. This leads to a lower pH value in the gut and an acidic environment. The bacteria also metabolise breast milk amino acids into aromatic acid, which is a crucial process to enhance the strength of the infant’s gut lining3.

It has been shown that breast milk can contain microbes that can transfer to the gut microbiota. The microbes can come internally from both the mother’s microbiota and externally from the milk ducts during feeding. It has been shown that Bifidobacterium was only present in 40% of the tested milk samples, which is the most common bacteria in the infant’s gut, and many of the bacteria shown in the milk samples were not detected in the infant’s gut4.

The use of antibiotics is widely known to disrupt the microbiota. It ruptures the structure of the microbiota and reduces some essential bacterial metabolites. The recovery of the microbiota when antibiotics have been introduced is slow and might take years to recover. One way to help the microbiota after antibiotics is to prescribe a supplement of live bacteria1.

With these insights, World Microbiome Day plays a crucial role in raising awareness about the importance of microbes at different stages of our lives and the intricate ways they impact our health, the environment, and beyond. This year’s theme, “Feed your microbes – How diet shapes your gut microbiome,” underscores the essential relationship between our diet and the gut microbiome. Understanding this connection not only highlights the significance of maintaining a healthy, diverse microbiome but also emphasizes the need for ongoing research and awareness. As we celebrate this day, let us continue to appreciate and explore the incredible potential of microbes to enhance our well-being and address global challenges.

If you want to read more about the microbiome, please read our blog post from 2022 here: The Microbiome & Our Interaction with it

  1. Zhang P. Influence of Foods and Nutrition on the Gut Microbiome and Implications for Intestinal Health. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 24;23(17):9588. doi: 10.3390/ijms23179588. PMID: 36076980; PMCID: PMC9455721.
  2. Dzidic M, Boix-Amorós A, Selma-Royo M, Mira A, Collado MC. Gut Microbiota and Mucosal Immunity in the Neonate. Med Sci (Basel). 2018 Jul 17;6(3):56. doi: 10.3390/medsci6030056. PMID: 30018263; PMCID: PMC6163169.
  3. Dalby MJ, Hall LJ. Recent advances in understanding the neonatal microbiome. F1000Res. 2020 May 22;9:F1000 Faculty Rev-422. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.22355.1. PMID: 32518631; PMCID: PMC7255898.
  4. Moossavi S, Azad MB. Origins of human milk microbiota: new evidence and arising questions. Gut Microbes. 2020 Nov 9;12(1):1667722. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2019.1667722. Epub 2019 Nov 4. PMID: 31684806; PMCID: PMC7524145.