Microbiome and More

Your intestines have the surface area nearly the size of a tennis court. Your skin’s surface area falls right behind in size. All this surface area happens to be home to over 1,500 different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. That is trillions of microbes! Each species plays a different role and together they make up the microbiome. Most of these microbes exist in a lower portion of the large intestine in what is known as the “gut microbiome.”

More than ever, researchers and doctors are realizing how vital your gut microbiome is to overall health. The bacteria in the gut goes far beyond the digestive system. It also influences:

  • Brain function —  that look for your glasses but they’re right on top of your head “brain fog”
  • Immunity —  80% of your immune system resides in your gut!!
  • Bone strength
  • Hormones
  • Depression
  • Weight loss and weight gain
  • Blood sugar —  those late night sugar cravings

This is all simply dependent on the type of microbes in there.

Okay, I guess not so “simply.”

The microbes in our digestive system are complex, affecting us from birth and throughout life. We usually don’t think of the microbes living inside us, and it’s easy to make the assumption that digestion is just food going in, turning to calories, and waste going out. There is so much more to it than that. These microbes are working hard, making enzymes to help digest food, activating and deactivating hormones, synthesizing vitamins, detoxing, and more.

There are also “bad” microbes that can cause havoc on the “good” health benefits mentioned above. Every time you eat, you are feeding somebody, either the bad guys or the good guys. The bad feed on sugar and unhealthy fats (so yes, junk food), and the single most important nutrient the good feed on is fiber.

Does it make sense now why you always hear “eat a fiber rich diet?”

So why do we first focus on the gut in terms of microbiome? Because that tennis size court of surface area and those 80% of immune cells in the gut are the biggest interface we have with the outside world. Patrolling and checking everything that comes through as your very own personal “ border control.” Your immune cells either respond violently resulting in a sanction of inflammation and havoc, or with a more healthy and balanced response. Because of this, the main source of inflammation in our body comes from our gut (this is why the “anti-inflammatory diet” exist). The belief is a lot of inflammatory diseases begin in the gut, even acne is an inflammatory disease.

You have probably heard of the healthy and good bacteria as probiotics. You can find probiotics in supplements and fermented foods. They aid in digestion and keep your tummy happy. Probiotics are a living thing, just like humans, they must be fed in order to remain active and prebiotics are what feed the existing probiotics.

Consuming probiotics in your daily routine to add to your existing healthy microbiome and adding prebiotics to feed your existing microbiome can be very beneficial from the bacterial perspective. It’s not always easy to eat naturally probiotic and prebiotic fiber rich foods. Therefore, there are many probiotic and prebiotics supplements on the market to make this easier.

Benefits of probiotics have been seen beneficial in:

  • Diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
  • Diarrhea caused by antibiotics
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Urinary health
  • Skin conditions like eczema
  • Preventing allergies and cold
  • Oral health

What else can we do for healthy gut microbiome?

Don’t feed the bad ones

  • Sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed food

Feed the good ones

  • Eat a fiber-rich, whole food diet
    • If you are just beginning to add a lot of fiber to your diet start slowly. Add a few grams daily and work up over time. Your gut microbes need to adapt.
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Add prebiotics to your diet. Prebiotics are the food that probiotics need to thrive. They are a plant fiber that humans cannot digest and they live in your large intestine. The more you feed your probiotics with prebiotics, the more efficiently work will be done.
  • Consume fermented foods such as Greek yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut

Don’t kill the good ones

  • Stay away from unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotics are integral in treating bacterial infections such as strep throat and most sinus infections. However, these antibiotics are very strong. While they are killing off the bad bacteria that is causing the infection, they are also killing many functional bacteria.

If you are looking to add probiotics to your diet, not all are the same. Different strains of bacteria have different effects. Most probiotics become active in the “gut microbiome” location in the lower portion of your intestines. To get there, they must survive the travel through the highly acidic and corrosive environment in your stomach. While another strain may fight against cavity-causing organisms in your mouth and don’t need to survive the trip.

Probiotics work best when consumed within 30 minutes of a meal or beverage that contained fat.

In conclusion, be in a symbiotic relationship with your gut. Treat it like you love it. Feel it’s your responsibility to protect and work in harmony with it for your own well-being.  After all, many suggest it as our “second brain.”