The Microbiome: How our Health Begins in the Gut
Believe it or not, we’re made up of bacteria. In fact, microbes outnumber human cells in our body 10:1. These bacteria are not all bad though. They - along with other fungi and microorganisms - make up a complex ecosystem called the microbiome that plays an important role in our health and wellbeing. Learn more below with our Microbiome 101.
What is the Microbiome?
Our bodies contain a collection of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi which form the human microbiome. This includes the bacteria in our gut, skin, mouth and reproductive system. The microbiome has an important role in our overall health and wellbeing.
What does our Gut Microbiome Do?
A healthy bacterial ecosystem is essential to helping us stay happy and healthy. Our gut microbiome plays a particularly important role, including:
- Strengthening our immune systems by helping to fight off harmful invaders like viruses and harmful bacteria that cause illness.
- Absorbing & digesting our food by breaking down food so nutrients can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. If our gut microbiome is out of balance it could lead to weight gain or even malnutrition.
- Maintaining a healthy weight by influencing appetite, glucose metabolism, fat storage. Studies have shown that an unhealthy gut microbiome is more likely to slow weight loss and lead to higher rates of obesity.
- Lowering rates of depression when kept healthy and in balance. An overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut, known as dysbiosis, can cause inflammation. Inflammation in the gut has been shown to increase rates of depression. The good news is that good gut bacteria releases helpful compounds which have been shown to prevent inflammation.
How do we Cultivate a Healthy Gut Microbiome?
Our modern lifestyle can disrupt the balance of good and harmful bacteria in our gut, causing our ecosystem to be off-balance. This can lead to a number of harmful and far-reaching health issues. Fortunately, there are easy ways to support our gut microbiome. These include:
- Eating a variety of foods
- This helps to give your gut microbiome a diverse diet of vitamins and minerals to help it work at its best. This can be as simple as adding fruits and vegetables to every meal. This can help support the right balance of bacteria in our ecosystem.
- Limit processed foods
- Processed foods aren't good for anyone's health—and they're particularly bad for the health of your microbiome. They may contain additives or preservatives that aren't good for bacteria or other microorganisms living in your body; they may also contain harmful pesticides. Try to eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible.
- Limit the use of antibiotics
- While antibiotics can help kill harmful bacteria, they can also reduce helpful bacteria as well. While not always possible, try to avoid the use of antibiotics. If you do have to use antibiotics, follow up treatment by supporting your microbiome with fermented foods (probiotics) and those high in fiber (prebiotics) to support helpful bacterial growth.
In summary, our gut microbiome plays an essential role in helping to keep us looking, feeling, and performing our best. It is important to feed our microbiomes with fresh, whole foods to keep it working to support us.