Firmicutes are a major phylum or group of bacteria that are commonly found in the gut microbiome of humans and animals. They are gram-positive bacteria, characterized by their thick cell walls.
Firmicutes encompass a diverse range of bacteria, including various genera such as Lactobacillus, Clostridium, and Bacillus, among others. These bacteria have different functions and can have both beneficial and potentially harmful effects on our health, depending on their specific species and context.
In terms of their role in the gut microbiome, Firmicutes play several important functions. They are involved in the fermentation of dietary fiber, breaking down complex carbohydrates that our bodies cannot digest. This process produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, which serve as an energy source for the cells lining the colon and have beneficial effects on gut health.
Firmicutes are also associated with the extraction and absorption of calories from our diet. Some studies suggest that individuals with a higher proportion of Firmicutes in their gut microbiome may have a greater capacity to extract energy from food, potentially contributing to weight gain or obesity.