Microbiome - an overview

Within the last 10 years, there has been greater research into the understanding of the microbiome. Evidence has revealed that the role of microbes is diverse and essential to optimal health. It has also highlighted the need for a symbiotic approach. This means no one microbiota is sufficient and mono treatment has less success.


Terminology has become confused as it has dispersed into the public domain, so to clarify, microbiota refers to living organisms on a specific environment e.g. our skin and gut. The microbiome is microorganisms within a specific environment. Microorganisms (microbiome) populate many areas including the skin, the respiratory system (including the nasal cavity), urinary tract, digestion, and eyes. 

The oral microbiome  

The health of our mouth including teeth, is dictated primarily by our diet and oral hygiene. Multiple strains of bacteria co-exist in all areas of our mouth.

The mouth is an entry point for nutrition, medication, liquids, and airborne contaminants. Some of these could affect the delicately balanced pH of the oral cavity in turn affecting the bacterial activity and population. Given that the millions of microbiomes have roles such as anti-bacterial and anti-viral, if this balance is upset, it can infiltrate down into the gut.  

Links have been made to Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral microbiome, (Shoemark and Alan 2015). Other correlations between systemic conditions and poor oral health are:

  • cardiovascular disease 
  • rheumatoid arthritis 
  • stroke 
  • diabetes 
  • respiratory Infections
  • IBD 

The skin microbiome 

The skin hosts millions of bacteria and there are many factors which can affect its integrity, including: 

  • skin folds (where some individuals are overweight, or there is rapid weight loss, they may have areas of skin folds which create a habitat for pathogenic microbes)  
  • skin products (some can affect the hydration and pH of the skin, thus affecting microbial activity)
  • skin thickness
  • health and performance of hair follicles and glands
  • temperature of the body (an example of temperature affecting the habitation of microorganisms is Staphylococcus Epidermis where its growth is dependent on an acidic pH) 

In summary, skin products, clothing, temperature, diet and medications, can all affect skin health and microbiome population. 

The gut microbiome

Gastrointestinal microorganisms play a vital role in gut balance and overall health. Their role is varied and inter-connected: 

  • functions of intestinal microbiota
  • fluid balance e.g. hydration along with electrolyte balance
  • immune system health
  • nutrient assimilation

A straightforward way to visualise the gut microbiome is to imagine a world, existing alongside us, adapting and changing according to the environment we create for it. The bacteria and viruses co-habit and some work in tandem with each other ensuring that the environment is at its best for whatever role it must do, others act as stewards by monitoring and policing to deal with threats.

We provide our microbiome with a bodily home, warmth, and food but sometimes we upset the fine balance through stress, poor diet, medications, surgery, fatigue, dehydration etc.

Babies obtain their initial gut microbes through vaginal birth and/or breastfeeding. Their diet and exposure to the environment they grow up in enable other microbes to be added to the stock. So, our microbiome population grows with us according to the life we live. 

In summary, if we suffer – whether through fatigue, poor nutrition or stress – then our bacterial integrity suffers with us and can become less effective or even toxic. By nurturing good health, we support this vast colony of bacteria and they, in turn, support us. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria Shorland runs The Therapy Clinic Rooms from Faversham, Kent. The clinic offers integrated services:

Phlebotomy/Blood Testing.
Food intolerance testing available with instant results.
Specialist IBS/IBD clinic.
Candida/FODMAP clinic.
Consultant Nutritionist clinic.

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