Blog

The Microbiome: Meet Billions of Your Microbes and Learn Why They Matter

It’s been four weeks since doc.ai launched the data trial, “Can Artificial Intelligence Predict the Optimal Supplements for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?”. IBD participant enrollment is growing and people with the condition can still join the trial.

Inspired by the project, we’ve decided to talk about the microbiome, which plays an important role in everyone’s overall health.

So what is the microbiome? What impact does it have on your health, and how can you understand your own microbiome?

In this post, we’ll cover all of that and more.

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome is complex, but the simple definition is:

Your microbiome is the unique collection of microbes that live within you and contribute to specific tasks in your body, such as digestion and nutritional absorption. Your microbiome contributes to your overall health and well-being.

Essentially, the microbiome is made up of billions of microbes, more than cells in the entire human body. Most of these reside in the large intestine (the gut) of the human body as well as the skin, mouth, nose, and vagina. Depending on the particular location of the body there may a different composition of microbes.

To understand the microbiome better, we have to understand what microbes are.

Microbes are different types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that exist inside your body. Most microbiome testing however now only identifies bacteria. Furthermore all of these bacterial cells also have their own genomes.

According to The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, an individual's microbiome contains “200 times the number of genes” than in the human genome, and a microbiome can “weigh as much as five pounds.”

So, why are these bacteria and fungi important for human health? How are they good or bad for you?

Let’s explore how the microbiome plays a critical role in overall health.

Why Is the Microbiome Important for Health?

Each of us have unique microbiomes that are important signals of our overall health.

The microbes that reside in our systems are heavily influenced by natural and environmental factors like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Foods consumed
  • Stress / cortisol levels
  • Geographical environment/exposure
  • Whether you were born by c-section or vaginally
  • Medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Antacids

For example, diet is a big factor in the overall functioning of the microbiome. Probiotics, plants, whole grains, fiber, and fermented foods all contain healthy bacteria that can help break down vitamins and nutrients.

These different factors all play a part in your microbiome, which is why every microbiome is so different. Because diets, genetics, and environment are so varied from person to person, no microbiome is exactly the same.

The microbiome impacts countless systems in your body from vitamins to immunity to fat storage and more.

Specifically, the bacteria that reside in your individual microbes play a role in digesting food and processing the nutrients from that food. This processing of nutrients is what regulates the immune system, warding off disease and keeping us healthy.

The key with the microbiome is maximizing your good bacteria that can process nutrients, protect your immune system, and fight off bad bacteria. The microbiome is responsible for digesting and distributing key vitamins and minerals like B12, Vitamin K, Riboflavin and more.

A Healthy Microbiome = a Healthy Brain and Heart

Amongst that, there is supporting research that the microbiome positively impacts brain and heart health. In a study of 1,500 people, healthier microbes were associated with improving markers for HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.

The same study found that unhealthy microbiomes resulted in the increase of TMAO, otherwise known as trimethylamine N-oxide, a compound that causes heart disease via clogging arteries and causing strokes. In terms of brain health, your gut bacteria are more important than you’d think.

It seems crazy, right? How can gut bacteria impact your brain functioning?

Well, specific microbes and bacteria in your gut help produce (or not produce) neurotransmitters. You know, things like serotonin, an antidepressant that is actually produced in the gut. Healthier microbiomes have shown larger productions in this antidepressant neurotransmitter.

How the Microbiome Can Provide Health Insights (Like Predicting Weight Loss)

While the microbiome is not a magical entity in your body that instantly controls your health, disease, and well-being, it’s a solid predictor of your current status and future health outcomes.

Just like any health factor, you have to keep in mind the full picture of omics. That means everything from your phenome (physical traits) to exposome (environmental factors) to physiome (physical activity) and more.

The microbiome is becoming recognized as a major player in overall health, with recent studies even showing its ability to predict weight loss and dramatic improvements in health in short periods of time.

A recent study in a group of mice found shocking results when they transplanted the fecal microbiota of a healthy mouse to an unhealthy mouse:

The unhealthy mouse with the transplant lost weight and improved on overall markers of health including their body mass index (BMI). This study was then carried out in human trials. In a study of 15 people who had transplanted fecal microbiota, patients reduced their BMI from 28.9 on average to 27.4 in just three months.

The study states:

“Generally, the patients who had BMIs that were higher than the average before the transplant showed greater decreases, according to the study.”

Even 12 months after the study, weight loss and reduced BMIs were sustained despite zero changes to diet or exercise!

Despite the study sample size being small, it provides amazing insight into how the microbiome can impact overall health.

The key with microbiome data is collecting and understanding your own data to get useful predictions and insights.

Here is how to do just that in the doc.ai app.

How to Start Collecting and Understanding Your Own Microbiome Data

Using the doc.ai app, you can start collecting all of your omics data, including your microbiome, in one place.

Your varying omics data will give you a great overview of your health with predictions based on your lifestyle, environment you live in, genetics, and more. By testing your microbiome periodically, you’ll get more insight on changes in your gut flora, especially if your diet has changed or you’ve gone through a course of antibiotics.

To collect your microbiome data, you can use uBiome’s gut microbiome test:

By collecting your microbiome data in the doc.ai app along with other omics data, like exposome – the environment you live in; physiome – your physical activity; pharmacome – medications and supplements you take, etc. – over time you will connect the dots of your overall health and find predictions related to your microbiome with other omics, like your potential for weight gain, and so on.

doc.ai is designed not only to provide predictions on the most common issues but also on a specific disease.

In January, doc.ai launched a data trial called, “Can Artificial Intelligence Predict the Optimal Supplements for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?” for people with IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) conditions. The company partnered with Crohnology, a patient-centered information sharing network for people with chronic medical conditions that has over 12K members; Dr. Shekhar Challa, MD, President of Kansas Medical Clinic PA who is the author of many award-winning books including “Probiotics for Dummies”, with the participation of uBiome, the leader in microbiological genomics, that provides the participants with IBD gut microbiome test kits.

If you know someone who’d like to participate in the data trial, the doc.ai application is open – all you need to do is provide the necessary information around a condition. Once approved, a participant will be able to import their symptoms into the doc.ai app and in the middle of the data trial they will receive a free microbiome test from uBiome.

If you know someone who’d like to participate in the data trial, the doc.ai application is open – all you need to do is provide the necessary information around a condition. Once approved, a participant will be able to import their symptoms into the doc.ai app and in the middle of the data trial they will receive a free microbiome test from uBiome.

Get Started on doc.ai today!

Because humans are made up of trillions of microbes, the microbiome is a critical component of human health. Using doc.ai, you can collect your omics data, including your microbiome, in a single application.

doc.ai is HIPPA compliant, and by collecting your data on the app, you secure the ownership and privacy of your data.

Your microbiome may help predict your likelihood of gaining or losing weight as well as other health trends.

Want to get started?

Download the doc.ai app today!