What Does Microbiome Mean?
Microbiome: The microorganisms inhabiting a particular environment, a micro-ecosystem.
To make it easier to remember, think of the scientific word “microbiome” as micro (small) and biome (a community of life that shares a natural habitat).
Microbiota: Bacteria that lives in the gut.
The Gut: In biology, the gut refers to the stomach and the intestines.
The Living Gut
When we hear the word “bacteria,” we tend to think about it as an enemy of our bodies, causing sickness. In fact, we kill bacteria with disinfectant, sanitary wipes and soap.
However, there are billions of bacteria present in your body right now, and you could not survive without them.
Each of us has a microbiome, that little but complex community of bacteria living in our bodies and promoting health. Our microbiomes:
- Bolster our immune systems.
- Ensure the proper function of our digestive systems.
- Regulate our hormones.
- And much more.
Microbiota in the Gut
Thank goodness we can’t see the trillions of bacteria running across our skin, but thank goodness we have them.
The vast majority of healthy human bacteria lives in the gut. The good bacteria in your gut does great work in these ways:
- Aids in digestion
- Derives nutrition from food
- Fights harmful bacteria
- Strengthens the immune system
- Balances hormones
- Keeps brain function healthy
Scientists are beginning to understand the functions and importance of the human microbiome. Continuing research will likely yield even more knowledge of the benefits of good bacteria.
We are already aware of so many valuable functions of the microbiome and how crucial it is to protect it.
Why Is it Important to Protect the Microbiome?
It is important to protect and nurture the microbiome in many ways and for many reasons.
Our microbiomes are impacted and influenced by:
- Sleep patterns
- Types of food we eat
- Stress levels
- Amount of bacteria we are exposed to
- Medications we take
- Lifestyle choices
Many researchers are convinced that 90 percent of all diseases can be traced back to the gut and health of the microbiome.
Our gut microbiomes are so crucial that without optimal gut health, the balance throughout the whole body is upset and can cause many systems to run poorly, resulting in poor overall health.
The balance of bacteria living inside us impacts our health in the following areas:
- Overall health
Dealing with Illness: The Unhealthy Gut
The synergy and balance of your microbiome will determine your overall health and risk of illness.
Poor gut health can contribute to:
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases
- Heart disease
- Insulin spikes
Inflammation is at the root of most diseases.
Inflammation brings on many illnesses before their time, if they would ever present at all. Inflammation in the joints leads to arthritis. Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel disease are, in essence, inflamed guts.
Of note, an anti-inflammatory lifestyle creates the opposite.
Cognitive decline and brain disorders are directly correlated to inflammation. The brain is affected by inflammation in these areas:
- Onset of Alzheimer’s
Of particular interest to those dealing with fatigue (who isn’t?) is the science backing the link to gut bacteria and tiredness. People suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgia encephalitis might be interested to know researchers have identified a biomarker that appears to be found in gut bacteria.
Like with arthritis, fatigued patients often seem to have a lower amount of good bacteria in their stomach and intestines. Improving good bacteria reduces this inflammation and can even prevent or significantly reduce the symptoms of fatigue and arthritis in many people.
Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are common in America.
You may have heard of the term “gut-brain connection.” What it means is that your diet affects your microbiome and your neurotransmitter activity, which in turn affects how you feel, your ability to handle stress and your energy levels.
Celiac Disease, Gluten-Free Diet and Leaky Gut
Celiac sufferers are intimately familiar with the pain and bowel problems one can have in their gut. When the more than 200 possible symptoms of celiac disease become unbearable, those suffering are willing to try myriad diets and potential healing alternatives to improve their condition.
Even under the care of a doctor and while following medical advice on nutrition, patients with bowel, stomach and digestive disorders often cannot find relief. The gluten-free diet has become popular in hopes of improving gut health, but for some, it’s simply not enough.
There is quite a bit of science supporting what natural health enthusiasts believe about the leaky gut. When the intestines become overly permeable, it is called leaky gut syndrome. When this happens, bacteria and toxins can pass into the bloodstream. Leaky gut has been linked to multiple health problems.
What Can You Do to Rehabilitate Your Gut?
Did you know we can influence, protect and improve the inner workings of our microbiomes?
Yes, there is such a thing as dietary rehab for your gut. The most powerful and influential thing you can do to support good health in microbiota is to maintain a proper diet.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents staves off the negative effects of an overabundance of bad bacteria and supports the development of good bacteria in the gut.
These foods should be the base of your diet:
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs
- Ancient grains and legumes
- Herbs, spices and teas
- Probiotic foods
- Healthy fats – grass-fed butter, coconut oil, EVOO, etc.
- Moderate red wine and dark chocolate
As you can see, the best diet includes old-world foods, meaning unadulterated, natural, nutritious substances found in nature. Over time, humans have altered the genetics of many foods, made hybrids and changed how we eat. Going back to nutritional foods fresh from nature is the best thing for the optimum performance of our cells.
Foods to Avoid
Just as there are certain foods we can eat to strengthen the health of our microbiomes, there are certain foods that inhibit our natural abilities to avoid illness and inflammation.
Foods to avoid for those with celiac disease – and foods that all of us should avoid for optimum gut health – are as follows:
- Refined vegetable oils
- Refined and processed grains and legumes
- Pasteurized dairy products
- Conventional meat, poultry and eggs
- Added sugars
- Trans or hydrogenated fats
To make it easier to remember, concentrate on the list of good foods and, for the most part, consider the undesirable foods just the opposite. When you fill up on healthy foods, you don’t have room for unhealthy products.
Detoxing from the bad list of foods rehabilitates the body, and people report how much better they’re feeling after only a couple weeks.
Exercise for Microbiome Health
Another very influential part of keeping the bugs inside working the way they were intended is proper exercise. Studies in mice and humans have indicated that exercise is a key component in good gut health.
If you are sedentary, you can quickly begin to make significant strides in benefiting the microbes in your stomach and intestines by starting an exercise program. If you already exercise some, expanding your exercise routine makes a noticeable difference in a short time.
It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you do, just that you do it regularly and often.
Strengthen Your Microbiome
Second to diet, exercise is perhaps the biggest factor in the well-being of your microbiome. After diet and exercise, there are a few more things to keep in mind.
Some other ways to strengthen your microbiome include:
- Lower your stress levels.
- Avoid antibiotics.
- Add healthy supplements to your diet.
Microbiota influence the functions of the whole body. By eating natural, healthy, anti-inflammatory and probiotic foods, you can make a significant impact on gut health.
A good exercise routine supports a healthy microbiome. Exercise actually changes the composition and activity of the copious amount of microbes in our bodies.
Lowering your stress is crucial to improving your gut health and whole-body health.
Enhancing your diet with supplements and avoiding antibiotics makes a difference.
The wonderous news of the stability and efficiency of the underestimated microbiome is that we can change the makeup of our bodies by changing our lifestyle. We are not defined by our genetics, our DNA or even our current biological composition. Amazingly, we can rewire our cellular synergy and improve our lives.