"The intestine is a bit like our second brain"!
We don't talk about it often, but the microorganisms that live in our gut have a huge impact on our physical and mental health.
We therefore had the chance to talk to Andréanne Martin, nutritionist-dietitian and founder-president of theAndréanne Martin team to answer various questions about the microbiota.
Daniel: How would you explain the microbiota in a simplified way, to a 5 year old child for example?
Andréanne : Oh dear! I don't think I would go into explaining the microbiota to a 5-year-old (laughs)! But overall, the intestinal microbiota is all the microorganisms that live throughout our digestive tract ... from the mouth to the anus, but the majority are located in the intestine.
The intestine has often been neglected and belittled by claiming that its only role is to produce feces. On the other hand, for the past 20 years, we have realized that there is a whole world swarming in this organ and that all the families of bacteria present in our digestive tract have different roles and functions, both on physical and mental health. . The intestine is a bit like our second brain!
Among the roles and functions of bacteria, there are some which, when properly nourished, will produce molecules called metabolites. Bacteria will ferment these foods and this fermentation will in turn produce several small molecules that have various functions such as signals of hunger and satiety, feeding our other good bacteria and producing mucus which improves our immune defenses.
Let me take a little aside here: the intestine is the second largest barrier between the internal and external world (after the skin)! It's not nothing!
The intestinal bacteria will also activate the vitamins of group B. These vitamins are necessary in the manufacture, by our brain, of neurotransmitters allowing us to function adequately on a daily basis.
Daniel: Is the consumption of yogurt or probiotic supplements necessary to have a healthy microbiota?
Andréanne : First of all, you have to know that the microbiota is not only modulated by our food. Indeed, it is built long before our birth from our mother's diet, the type of birth and whether we were breastfed or not. It is also modulated by the environment in which we live (rural, city), taking medication, etc.
That being said, it is food that has the most impact, at 40%. This means that it is therefore possible to make choices in order to have a healthy and active microbiota. On the other hand, before relying solely on supplements, we must prioritize what is in our plate by asking ourselves "What should I eat to have a healthy and active microbiota?" ".
The microbiota loves dietary fiber! Think again, it doesn't just represent All-brans, and brown colored foods. Fiber is cool, since it will give you better energy, a better mood, etc.
When we think of fibers, we think of two things: plants and colors.
Plants are made up not only of the large family of fruits and vegetables, but also nuts and seeds, vegetable proteins (legumes, tofu, etc.) and whole grains (barley, millet, etc.).
As for the color, it is simply to pass all the colors of the rainbow on our plate… even the brown one!
Finally, know that there are bad foods for the microbiota and that we simply want to reduce their presence in the profile of foods that have a positive impact.
Daniel: How can research differentiate the impact on microbiota vs health related to healthy eating?
Andréanne : The microbiota releases metabolites that will be evaluated by researchers in order to determine and differentiate the impact of the microbiota on health.
The biggest challenge in studying the microbiota is that it is individual to everyone, a bit like a fingerprint. It therefore requires very large cohorts, with high and difficult research criteria.
Daniel: What is the impact of the microbiota on our mental health?
Andréanne : As I explained earlier, the manufacture of neurotransmitters requires certain key foods. A healthy diet therefore not only gives us a feeling of well-being through the supply of nutrients necessary for our proper functioning, but also because the production of neurotransmitters is facilitated by a healthy microbiota (group B vitamins).
We are currently seeing precise trends in the microbiota in contexts of anxiety and depression, such as the presence in large quantities of bad or less good bacteria. On the other hand, we do not yet know if it is the cause or the effect, that is to say if it is the depression which causes a disturbance of the microbiota or a disturbance of the microbiota which causes the depression. When the answer is found, we can finally take action to adequately deal with this type of problem.
Daniel: How does it take time to change our microbiota?
Andréanne : We have two kinds of bacterial diversity in our microbiota: the first changes in 24 hours while the second is individual to each, between two weeks and several months.
Daniel: Do athletes have any benefits from worrying about their microbiota? If so, can supplementation improve athletic performance?
Andréanne : There is currently no study to confirm that supplementation would improve sports performance. On the other hand, is it worth it for an athlete to modify his diet in order to take care of his microbiota? Absolutely, since physical activity has a positive impact on the microbiota, but not as much as food.
Daniel: So, if I understand correctly, physical activity would have an impact on the microbiota? How does the gut know when you are doing physical activity?
Andréanne : With all reserve, I believe that the message is sent via chemical mediators, that is to say the hormones which one produces when one moves, and which would have an impact on the muscles of the intestines.
For example, when practicing extreme sports, we see a certain post-practice permeability in the microbiota which would let in undesirable molecules. The gentler activities are therefore more appreciated for the microbiota.
Daniel: Do fermented foods have an impact on the microbiota?
Andréanne : We can only make associations for the moment. For example, we have seen that the healthiest peoples consume more fermented foods in their diet than other peoples in the world.
For my part, I find fermentation very relevant for the bioavailability of nutrients. When bacteria ferment the food before it is ingested, it allows vitamins and minerals to become more readily available, thus obtaining the benefits more easily and quickly when eaten.
On the other hand, as these foods are not standard, it is difficult to suggest consumption to people, if we compare to probiotic supplements for example. This leads me to tell you that when you have a problem to treat and you are considering taking probiotic supplements, you should base yourself on the Clinical guide to probiotics. This will allow you to find a probiotic suited to your condition.
Daniel: Finally, where can we follow you?
Former member of the national biathlon team and world champion in obstacle courses, physical activity has a special place in my daily life.