What Is Your Microbiome? | Human Microbiome Facts
What Is Your Microbiome and What Is the Role of the Microbiome in Human Health and Disease?
First of all, what is your microbiome?
Our bodies contain a huge bunch of micro-organisms, on the inside and the outside. These include bacteria, single cell organisms (archaea), fungi, viruses, and other microbes. This melting pot is known as the human microbiota or microbiome. The gut microbiome, for example, is so complex it is sometimes referred to as a second brain.
Functions of the Microbiome
Obesity, anxiety, and numerous other maladies appear to be linked to our microbes. These trillions of living microbes work to produce “happy chemicals” such as serotonin and dopamine. Keeping this microbiome healthy aids your mental health and can prevent overeating, as well as regulating your digestion.
The microhiome also includes other surface environments such as the skin, eyes, mouth, nose, lungs, and urinary genital system. The internal body is impacted by our microbial community as it helps us to digest food, regulate our immune system, influence our metabolism, and fight off disease causing bacteria.
More Human Microbiome Facts
We are not born with a fully formed microbiome but it develops over the first year of a baby’s life. Changes occur until we are about three years old when we are the proud owners of a unique microbiota that we keep for the rest of our lives. However, our environment, long term diet, stress, and the drugs we take such as antibiotics, cause our microbiome to change somewhat throughout our lives.
Different Types of Microbes
Different parts of the body have distinctly different types of microbes and differ from person to person. This explains why people respond differently to different foods, drugs, and how well we sleep. In the case of obesity, different types of microbes are involved in the differences between lean and obese people.
One example of the important functions of the microbiome has been explained in an article in the publication Epoch Times. I quote:
“The symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, bloating, and flatulence, all of which result from failure to break down lactose in the small intestine. As undigested lactose moves into the large intestine, water enters to reduce the lactose concentration, producing diarrhea. The lactose is eventually eaten by microorganisms in the intestine, producing, as byproducts, various gases that cause bloating, cramping, and flatulence. Recent studies have shown that the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be relieved in some people by changing the population of their microbes to encourage lactose-digesting bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria eat the lactose but produce the byproduct lactic acid instead of gas. Large clinical trials are in progress.”
Microbiome Diet Food List
Below is a list of ways to keep your microbiome happy and healthy. Many of these are the same as ones suggested for other health issues and my fingers know them so well from these articles that they can almost type them by themselves.
- Eat your vegetables, especially leafy green ones which are loaded with fibre. Examples of these veggies that feed the hungry little microbes are leeks, onions, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and artichokes.
- No more sugar and processed foods. I am going to tell you a story. Fast digesting sugars are digested so fast that the microbes don’t even get a bite. Too many of these sugars too often cause you to starve your poor microbiome. Grumpy at this (just as we get when hungry) these microbiomes will resort to chowing down on the lining of your intestine. Inflammation arrives post haste. Substitute honey, dark chocolate, coconut flour, apples, berries, bananas, mango, and sweet potatoes.
- Probiotics contain live bacteria that will police your gut and make sure that it is populated by the good types of microbes. Probiotic supplements are available at health food stores but it is a good idea to ask your doctor what strains of cultures are best for you as each person’s microbiome is different. Additional sources of probiotics are yogurt (sugar free, of course), kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir.
- Make sure you eat plenty of foods that are good sources of prebiotics as they give your microbes the energy to manage your enteric nervous system. This list includes whole grains, apples, garlic, cocoa extracts, bananas, asparagus, nuts, seeds, red wine extracts, root vegetables, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and green tea extracts.
- If you are like me, you love red meat. But try your best to cut back on the amount of it you eat as many meat brands are known for raising their livestock with antibiotics. Either that or make friends with a farmer who does not use antibiotics and arrange to buy your meat from him.
Antibiotics and Why to Avoid Them
- Avoid antibiotics when possible. They wipe out all bacteria, making them great for getting rid of illnesses but very bad for your microbiome as they also wipe out the good bacteria. If it is absolutely necessary for you to take an antibiotic be sure to also take a probiotic to help replace the good bacteria.
Sleep and Exercise Benefits: Get Adequate Sleep and Stay Active
- Get adequate sleep. I know that is sometimes easier said than done but studies have shown that erratic sleep patterns can disrupt the microbiome and cause inflammatory diseases.
- The microbiomes of physically active people are more healthy and diverse. Regular exercise helps the microbes to make sure that your stress levels are managed and your mental health is good. Even walking outdoors is beneficial.
- Get a dog. Yes you read that correctly. Living with a pet is associated with the increase of human microbial diversity. Lack of microbial diversity is linked to cancer, autoimmune and allergic diseases, and metabolic and neurological disorders.
The good news is that the microbiome is modifiable, meaning we may be able to manipulate it to promote health and treat diseases such as IBS, diabetes, Parkinsons, and MS. Research is ongoing.
I hope that you have found these human microbiome facts helpful, and that I have helped you to answer the question, What is your microbiome, and that you will now be mindful of the functions of the microbiome, and how to take care of it.
For further reading:
The Best Probiotic / Prebiotic Supplements
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The importance of probiotics in one’s diet cannot be stressed enough. Our GI tract is home to trillions of beneficial microbes which make up around 70-80% of our immunity. Daily stressors, both environmental and internal, as well as the use and abuse of antibiotics, disrupts the balance of bacteria in the digestive system. A correlation can be made between many major and minor health problems and this imbalance.*