The Microbiome
 

With this interest, the term 'microbiome' may be confusing, particularly to a person who is not a trained microbiologist. For instance, one reference may tell us that the microbiome is the complete set of microbiota (microorganisms, bacteria, fungi), its genes, and the metabolites they produce in the microenvironment in which they reside (habitat) either inside or on the body of an organism (e.g. the intestinal tract, the mouth, the skin, the reproductive system) and sometimes the term microbiome and microbiota are used interchangeably though they are different.


One way to grasp the term microbiome is by using a sports analogy. Imagine a football stadium filled with fans from diverse backgrounds and origins. Similarly, the gut microbiome (the football stadium) consists of a diverse population of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more. What's more, each fan in the stadium has their own unique characteristics and preferences, as do the different microorganisms present in the gut microbiome.


We can expand this analogy further. Inside the football stadium (the gut microbiome), fans communicate and interact with each other and with the players during the game. Similarly, the microorganisms in the microbiome communicate and interact with each other and with the host (human, dog, or cat) through chemical signals and interactions.


This communication results in a strong association between the microbiome and the health of the gastrointestinal tract and other organs such as the brain, liver, skin, and others. And just as a successful football team requires a balance between offense and defense, the microbiome relies on a delicate balance of its microorganisms to maintain health. In contrast, an imbalance or unprepared team can lead to poor performance on the field, and a disruption of the balance in the gastrointestinal tract known as dysbiosis, can lead to health problems for the host.


While there are numerous factors that influence the composition of the microbiome (e.g. host genetics, age, environment), diet plays a fundamental role in the growth and function of certain microorganisms so they can thrive in their respective niches. Nutritional intervention through diet provides a daily opportunity to enhance the health of the microbiome and ultimately the health of the host.

Studies show that phyla in the gut microbiome and the composition of bacteria and microorganisms respond predictably to dietary changes – high protein diets, and different types of fiber, to mention a few - in both humans and "healthy" dogs and cats.


It is not only important to know the specific phyla and strains, but also their functionality: what types of metabolic processes take place and what metabolites are generated. Metabolites that have been extensively discussed and researched are short-chain fatty acids, butyric, propionic, and acetic acids.

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It's important to note that the composition of the microbiota in the intestinal tract is unique to every person, and every dog, cat, and even human also has a unique microbiota profile.


What's next: New generation of foods


For some time now, customized and personalized food has been thought of as a way to tailor dietary recommendations and optimize food choices according to an individual's unique physiological needs for health and wellbeing.


What we already know about the microbiome gives us the starting point for truly personalized nutrition. We should be able to develop personalized food with the desired nutritional outcomes for specific cases and conditions. A study of an individual's microbiome can provide insights into its unique microbial profile and provide personalized dietary recommendations to modulate the gut microbiome to improve and enhance digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health.


Modulating the gut microbiome to enhance wellbeing may seem like a tall order but discovering the secrets that the microbiome holds is key to a long and healthy life not only for our companion animals but also for us humans.

 

By: Juan Gómez-Basauri
Source: All Pet Food Magazine

About author

Juan Gómez Basauri, Ph.D.

Dr. Juan Gomez-Basauri is president and founder of Magellan LLC., a company dedicated to the development of new products, the commercialization of scientifically validated ingredients, the development of new technologies and innovations, and consulting services to the food and agriculture industries. Dr. Gomez-Basauri has more than 25 years of experience in agribusiness with leadership positions and responsibility for various business units in multinational companies such as Ralston Purina and Alltech. Dr. Gomez-Basauri received his Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree from Federico Villareal University in Lima, Peru; a Master's degree in Food Science, from the University of Leeds, England; and a Ph.D. in Food Science from Cornell University with an emphasis in nutrition and biochemistry Dr. Gomez-Basauri received a British Council and Fulbright Fellowships, among many other accomplishments. He has published significantly in trade journals and scientific journals and is a sought-after speaker within the industry.


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