Just a few years back, this question would have elicited the response, “Why, no microbes at all, as I am not at all sick!” Because microbes were almost always equated with infections, whether they are in the gut or in a wound. But today, at least the health conscious people know that gut microbes are more of the highly beneficial type than they are harmful or benign.
And hence, the more the number of species of microbes in your gut, the better would be your physical and even mental health. This is because, by now, scientists have unravelled that gut microbe composition affects many critical processes in the body including immunity, inflammation, disease prevention, nerve signalling, memory, cognition and more. Almost on a weekly basis, the gut microbiome’s link with another lifestyle disease is being discovered.
Now, coming back to our question, have you ever wondered how many species of gut microbes you personally have? While the exact answer will require a lab test, an approximate answer is very much possible depending upon where you live and the kind of work you do. This surprising fact with sufficient examples was recently confirmed in a study led by Stanford scientists and published recently in the noted journal, ‘Nature’.
Time now to discuss the answers to this question. If you are living in California, USA, this study found that your average number of gut microbe species is only 277. But if you are living in Asia – Nepal was the place they took as a sample – your average number of gut microbes would be much higher. But not as high as people living in Africa – especially the Hadza tribe in northern Tanzania that was studied – who had 730 species of gut microbes per person on average.
A person’s profession and their diet also had a deep impact. Those working in industrialised societies in general had the lowest microbiome species count, whereas those living by farming had a relatively high score of 436. And the highest gut microbe count was for the hunter-gatherers, exemplified by the Hadza tribe itself with 730 species. The overtly Western diet consisting of significant quantities of processed foods was found to be the main factor behind the low gut microbe numbers, as well as the sedentary life generally followed in such affluent societies.
The Hadza tribe was chosen for this study not accidentally. Earlier studies had found that they enjoy excellent health with only rare cases of obesity, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. With no access to critical care or high-tech medicines, many of them still live well past their 80. Hadza men and women walk around 10 kms everyday, spanning two hours or more, hunting for wild game and gathering honey, tubers, berries, firefood, water etc.
Their high level of physical activity and 100% reliance on natural or unprocessed food were originally thought of as the reasons, but after this new study on gut microbiome came out, scientists are realising that these other factors are most probably exerting their most positive effect via the beneficial microbes in the Hadza people’s gut, many of which are extinct or unheard of in the guts of American, European and even Asian populations.
While it is impossible to live in modern societies anymore as a hunter-gatherer, there are several biohacks that can enhance your gut microbiome composition. One of the first steps that you can take in this regard is to shun processed foods as much as possible, and rely on traditional dishes that often have fermented foods that serve as probiotics and natural foods like fibre-rich fruits and vegetables that act as prebiotics or fuel for the beneficial bacteria.
The biohacking bestseller, ‘The Making of a Superhuman’, by noted biohacker and wellness evangelist Sajeev Nair has several biohacks for bettering your gut microbiome health. Several Ayurvedic herbs and formulations are also highly effective probiotics and prebiotics, and nowadays you can also get them in capsule form for easy intake. The Bengaluru based health-tech startup, Vieroots Wellness Solutions has a whole family of such supplements targeting the gut microbiome called Thoughtbiotics.
They contain research-validated herbs and natural formulations that better overall health as well as brain health by optimising the Gut Brain Axis. Examples of such supplements are the health enhancing Vieroots Intuit, the performance enhancing Vieroots Focuz and the natural sleep inducing Vieroots Relax.
(For ordering your gut microbiome enhancing supplements, visit vieroots.com)