Everyone wants to stay healthy and keep their families healthy too.
We know we should eat right and get moving but have we stopped to consider how our gut health can influence our total health?
Okay, probably not. Let’s change that.
Keeping your microbiome in balance will help you avoid feeling fatigued, prevent certain diseases, control food allergies, manage our weight and even help our mood.
What is a microbiome you ask?
Do we all have microbiota? We sure do!
Microbiome is a term for all the microbes in our bodies. It consists of 100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells, primarily bacteria in the gut or gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Microbes include these living organisms — bacteria, fungus, protozoa and viruses, but in the gut we focus on bacteria.
Our microbiota can weigh 2-3 pounds and is individual to us. Our microbiome is normal microflora that perform important bodily functions especially throughout our GI tract.
What Our Microbiome Does for Us
The bacteria in our GI tract works hard to keep us healthy. When it gets out of balance our overall health not just our bowel movements can be negatively affected.
Our GI tracts work to:
- Support our immune response. Did you know that 70% of our immune system is in the GI tract?
- Helps to digest food that our GI tract has not been able to digest
- Helps produce Vitamins K and B-12
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Produces short chain fatty acids which help clean bowel and reduce inflammation
- Assists with bile metabolism
- Counteracts inflammation
- Helps renew cells in the gut mucosal lining
- Ensures proper digestive functions
- May play a role in our body weight
Keeping Our Microbiome in Balance
It is important to keep our GI tract bacteria or flora in a balanced state. The term for gut bacteria balance is symbiosis and means that the gut is in harmony so that it can have optimal function.
When our gut bacteria is out of balance or dysbiosis, we can lose the integrity of the mucosal lining which can allow our gut to be breached leading to an inflammatory response. When our bodies react with an inflammatory response because it believes we need healing, we can feel symptoms all over not just with an irregular bowel movement.
When our GI tract flora is in balance, it can help resolve inflammation, and maintain the barrier integrity to keep us well.
Doing these things will help strengthen your microbiome/GI tract flora:
- Consume a high fiber diet.
- Accept exposure to microbes – “play in the dirt.”
- Reduce antimicrobial product use.
- Include sources of probiotics (live microorganisms) and prebiotics (undigestible food compounds used by gut bacteria for fermentation).
- Eat a healthy diet – unprocessed, unsweetened , whole, organic/local, traditionally fermented, minimal sugar, avoid pesticides, avoid chlorinated water.
- Have favorable genetics (okay, that’s not something about which we can do anything, but it still matters).
- Reduce usage of antibiotics – antibiotics should be used sparingly because they kill both bad AND good microbiota resulting in imbalance. It can take months for some bacteria to recover from antibiotic use and some people may not fully recover after prolonged use. Use of natural antibiotics can have less negative effect on our good gut flora (oregano oil, manuka honey, garlic, colloidal silver, Echinacea). We may also want to avoid meat, poultry and eggs treated or fed products with antibiotics.
- Exercise – exercise can impact the amount and type of gut bacteria.
- Environment – decrease exposure to toxins.
Just because GI function appears normal, other signs may be present showing imbalance – such as allergy, fatigue, and symptoms of illness outside of our gut.
Advertising tells us that eating a certain yogurt will help keep us regular but it takes more than that to keep our microbiome in a state of balanced health.
We need a more holistic approach to maintaining our gut health.
The more we learn through research and investigation about the microbiome, the better able we are to impact our health proactively. Making a few changes to our eating habits and lifestyle can keep us and our families healthy.