The gut microbiome participates in vital processes including digestion, energy homeostasis and metabolism, the synthesis of vitamins and other nutrients, and the development and regulation of immune function. It also contributes to the production of numerous compounds that enter the blood and affect various tissues and organs of the body.
There are many external factors which influence the composition of the gut microbiome but one of the most important is diet and digestion. Ayurveda and other systems of traditional health have for thousands of years focused on diet and digestion.Enormous variation in the gut microbiota composition in each individual, as well as in each area of the digestive tract as per body constitution.When the microbiome is in balance it contributes to many health benefits, but when out of balance, it can cause problems in the gut and other areas of the body.
A disrupted microbiome is characterized by the overgrowth of one or more of the different microbial colonies. A complex interaction between the microbiome and immune systems may result in an inflammatory state . An imbalanced microbiome has been associated with a number of gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) .Conditions such as asthma, atopy, childhood obesity, and autism spectrum have been correlated with excess antibiotic use and a resulting alteration in the microbiome in childhood . Numerous other conditions such as obesity, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological disorders have also been linked with changes in the microbiome.
Spices and Digestive health
Ayurveda considers food as medicine. It uses spices and herbs to help create and maintain balance in the physiology, and to treat specific disorders. Recent research shows that both ginger and a herbal preparation called Triphala can have beneficial effects on the microbiome. Triphala consists of three fruits: Emblica officinalis (Amalaki), Terminalia bellerica (Bibhitaki), and Terminalia chebula (Haritaki). It is a fundamental component of Ayurvedic gastrointestinal and rejuvenation treatment programs, particularly to help improve elimination. Studies have found that Triphala has different potential clinical applications which include appetite stimulation and a reduction in hyperacidity and constipation. It also has a number of inherent biological properties such as anti-inflammatory, immuno modulatory, antibacterial, antimutagenic, adaptogenic, hypoglycemic, antineoplastic, chemoprotective and radioprotective, and antioxidant activities. In the study, it was shown that the polyphenols in Triphala modulate the human gut microbiome and thereby promote the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus while inhibiting the growth of undesirable gut microbes. The authors also suggest that the bioactivity of Triphala is elicited by gut microbiota that generate a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds.
Turmeric is another Ayurvedic preparation which has been found to affect digestion and the microbiome. Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin have been the subject of thousands of peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies, with hundreds of potential preventive and therapeutic applications on such diseases as ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders . Interestingly, the active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to be biological active but because of its poor bioavailability and inability to reach target tissues, it has not been found to be effective in clinical trials . It may also be ineffective because we no longer have the synergic effects of the other ingredients. It is suggested that curcumin may restore dysbiosis of the gut microbiome and as a result have a neuroprotective effect, however, future research is needed to know how curcumin actually affects the microbiome in different individuals .