We’ve all heard about the bacteria that resides in our gut and how we need to keep that bacteria properly-fed and balanced. It’s why probiotics have gained momentum and why suddenly everyone is jumping on the kombucha bandwagon. But did you know that in addition to bacteria, we’re hosts to gut fungi, another type of microbe in our body?
It may be unsettling to know, but the bacteria in our gut has a neighbor by the name of fungi. Though they make up a small population in the gut (called the mycobiome), recent research has discovered that fungi may be critical to maintaining healthy gut flora and our overall well-being.
What Is Gut Fungi?
Fungi are living organisms that live off of organic substances. Some examples of fungi include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms.
Before you start imagining tiny mushrooms growing inside your intestines, you should know that of the organisms that reside in your gut, only .1 percent of them are fungi. Their limited quantity is one of the reasons why gut fungi hasn’t gotten much attention in the past.
Why Is Gut Fungi Important?
Knowing that gut fungi is limited in its population, it may seem surpising to learn that gut fungi could potentially be very important to our health. This is especially interesting considering the fact that fungi are typically considered non-pathogenic (i.e. incapable of causing disease).
Whereas there are several gut conditions linked to problems with bacteria in the gut, such as IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome), fungi hasn’t been directly linked to any diseases.
Thanks to a recent study in the International Journal of Molecular Science, however, what role fungi exactly plays in the gut is becoming more apparent. While fungi may not directly be linked to diseases, researchers believe that fungi does have the potential to cause havoc in the body.
In the study, researchers found that fungi can affect bacteria in the gut, which in turn leads to certain conditions or diseases in the body. So, while a condition like IBS may not be a direct effect of issues with gut fungi, it could be indirectly related through bacteria.
Knowing this, researchers and scientists are starting to believe that what we eat is important not only for our gut bacteria, but our gut fungi too. Depending on what kind of diet we have, the fungi in our gut could look and act differently, potentially affecting our gut bacteria and overall health.
The Future of Mycobiome Studies
Research on gut fungi has been limited in the past. Because bacterial evidence and research has been readily available in the study of health and disease, most of the focus in science tends to be on the bacterial microbiome.
This is changing, however, as researchers find that the mycobiome can be just as important. Knowing how to properly nourish and care for fungi in the gut could potentially mean the difference between having healthy gut flora or suffering from many gut-linked diseases.
With the new and ongoing studies on the relationship between bacteria and fungi in the gut, it won’t be surprising to see more health news and natural products come out in the future promoting healthy fungi as a preventative measure and treatment for diseases of the gut.