Dr. Robbie Anderton
The Microbiome is the population of microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that live in, on, and with all vertebrates all the time. There’s lots of talk about the microbiome now, and how important it is for how our pets (and our own) bodies and how problems can really affect how the body functions.
Today we’ll focus on the Gut microbiome (from the mouth hole, all the way out the other end), but there’s a microbiome on the skin, respiratory tract, and genitourinary tract with it’s own mix of organisms.
Our Gut Microbiome is immense, with more cells in the microbiome than make up the rest of our body. When healthy, the microbiome is vital for improving our gut health, preventing infection by pathogenic (nasty) organisms, reducing inflammation, and probably even more things that we haven’t even worked out yet.
But our microbiome is fragile. If the balance is thrown out, this causes DYSBIOSIS, where there is a change in the organisms. This happens whenever we are administered antibiotics, if we get an infection, or with certain disease states. When the organisms in the microbiome change, they may no longer function the same way, with can have massive effects not just in the bowel, but potentially all over the body.
And it can take a long time for the microbiome to return to normal, if ever!
Probiotics are products with organisms that are trying to repopulate the microbiome. But the hard part is – What bugs need to go in? Is a generic probiotic going to have the right organisms for your pet? Are they going to help, or could they cause infection? In the future we may be able to run tests to identify what organisms are required for what disease state, for an individual patient! Imagine like a frozen yogurt shop, where you have your choice of 30 toppings, except with bugs for your gut!
Prebiotics are compounds that will help to promote the growth of the good bugs, and suppress the bad bugs. A mix of fibre, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals will help to promote bugs that want to work hard (like Scott Morrison’s “A fair go for those that want to have a go”, except for bugs!), which will help them to resume normal function quicker, and can help to resolve acute or chronic diarrhoea, or help with inflammatory bowel diseases etc. We have some great pet diets now with great claims to help with some of these conditions.
The future is pretty exciting with the microbiome, but there’s a long way to go to answer all the questions we have.