Note: this edition of “Gut Health 101” is part 3 of an 8-part series on the microbiome.
For many of us when we hear the term “gut health” we simply think about digestion. Thankfully, gut health is much more than just breaking down the food and drink that you consume. This next section of the Your 2nd Body series on the microbiome will dive into a really neat function of your gut microbiota: vitamin and hormone synthesis.
So far we’ve covered a general overview of the microbiome and the relationship between your diet, digestion, and your microbiome. In this post we’ll learn about the different vitamins and hormones that are actually synthesized by the bacteria that live in your gut – some of which you have troubles getting from diet alone.
Let’s take a trip into some basic nutrition before we dive into the details on vitamin and hormone synthesis.
There are two basic concepts in nutrition: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the basic components all food is comprised of. Every food item you eat contains varying levels of macronutrients. You have three basic macronutrients
The percentage of each macronutrient you take in varies from person to person. While some people thrive on a high protein, low fat, low carb diet others do better on a high carb, low fat diet with moderate protein intake. You may see people throw around numbers like 80-10-10 or 60-20-20. The numbers indicate the percentage of calories consumed from carbohydrates, fat, and protein respectively.
Then you have your micronutrients. These are the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and other molecules. Some of these micronutrients we easily convert ourselves. Others we need a little extra help with. We call these Essential Nutrients. Essential nutrients are those that cannot be synthesized by our body, so we need to consume them through dietary means. Download your FREE copy of your body’s essential nutrients HERE.
Lucky for us, our microbiome takes are of some of the synthesis of some of these essential nutrients. Our bacteria, with the aid of the food we consume (we have to help them out a little bit), help synthesize four essential vitamins:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Vitamin K plays a major role in blood clotting. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps maintain the health of nerves, skin, and hair. Vitamin B12 make DNA as well as keeping blood and nerve cells healthy. Niacin is important for sex and stress-related hormone production, improves circulation, and can even reduce inflammation.
But what about hormones? Did you say your microbiome also synthesizes hormones?
Yes! In addition to the microbiome synthesizing niacin which is important in the synthesis of sex and stress hormones, the microbiome is also the source of 80% of the serotonin production in your body. Serotonin is important in balancing your emotions. It is thought that a decrease in serotonin can lead to depression. Other hormones synthesized by your microbiome are
As you can see, many researchers are calling the microbiome a second endocrine system, one that is as powerful or wields even more power than our primary endocrine system.
We still have another five units to go in our adventure into the microbiome. As we travel deeper, you will begin to realize just how influential our microbiome really is to our overall health. My hope is you begin to question what you do on a daily basis and start adjusting your habits in ways that will support and diversify your microbiome.
Yes, my dear, you know,
You are my source of joy, rejuvenation, hope
I need your emotion spread onto my life,
I need your heart to sing among the darkness surrounding
Do not let our words run dry
Together, in strength, we will always know
And now you know,
So smile, be joyous, and kiss these candid truths
For they proclaim your greatness to the universe
In shouts of glory, in loving whispers,
On every shine of ocean shivers,
You will always know
I love you for you