A healthy digestive system is so important to the health of our entire body. If we can’t properly digest food, everything else falls apart. Did you know… 80% of the immune system is in the gut? (8) Did you know…your digestive system is sometimes called “the second brain”? Did you know…approximately 90% of serotonin is made in the gut, even though it’s typically known as a “feel good” BRAIN neurotransmitter? (1) Did you know… healthy microbes in the gut stimulate our cells to make serotonin? (2)
These microbes are know as “the human microbiome.”
WHAT IS THE HUMAN MICROBIOME? (3, 4)
The human microbiome is the community of microbes that reside on and within humans. These microbes contribute to our own collection of genes to make up our complete genetic portrait. There are a vast array of microbes within the biome, including bacteria, fungi, protozoans, viruses and archaea (single cell organisms)
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE HUMAN MICROBIOME (4, 5)
- The population of the microbiome is estimated between 75 – 200 trillion individual organisms. The human body consists of approximately 50 – 100 trillion cells.
- Estimates indicate there are anywhere from 900 to 1000 different species of organism in the microbiome, and they find more all the time.
- There are microbes living on all surfaces of the human body, but 95% live in the digestive tract.
- Each individual human microbiome is as unique as the fingerprint
- We are born with a sterile gut. Our microbiome is typically colonized from our mother. A baby is born by cesarean will be colonized by the skin of the mother and the hospital environment.
- Breast fed babies have a different type of microbiome than bottle fed babies.
BENEFITS OF THE MICROBIOME
We live in a symbiotic relationship with all of these wonderful little bugs. But, just what do they do for us? Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Improved mental health
- Improved liver function
- Help regulate the immune system
- Eliminate toxins
- Bone strength
- Appetite control
- Heart health
- How body fat is stored
WHAT HARMS THE MICROBIOME? (6,7)
It is estimated that up to 30 million Americans have an imbalanced microbiome, or Dysbiosis. If a healthy microbiome is so important, what harms it or causes an imbalance?
- Antibiotics – these are the main causes of dysbiosis. This is because antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria as well. Even if you avoid anti-biotic medication, keep in mind that farm animals, and dairy cows are given large amounts of antibiotics, which end up in the food. Buy organic, locally grown food to avoid this.
- Drugs, such as steroids, hormones, acid-blockers and pain relievers can damage the microbiome
- Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda
- poor diet – such as a standard American diet, high in processed foods, sugar, and refined carbs, as well as low in fiber, fermented foods, and micronutrients.
WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF AN UNHEALTHY GUT? (9,10,11)
Now we know just how important the microbiome is to your health. How can you tell if you have an unhealthy gut or imbalanced microbiome? Here are a few things to look for:
- Gas and bloating
- Sugar cravings
- Bad breath
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or moodiness
- Skin itchiness or rashes, such as eczema
- Coated tongue
Here is a link to the Body Ecology Gut Health Quiz. It will help you to know if you have an imbalanced gut…
HOW TO REJUVENATE YOUR GUT AND REBALANCE YOUR MICROBIOME (12, 13)
Whether you have an imbalance or not, it’s important to rebalance or maintain the balance of your microbiome. Here are the top ways to reclaim the health of your gut:
- Discover any food intolerances – Go on an elimination diet to discover which foods your body just doesn’t tolerate. These foods can cause damage to the lining of your digestive tract and harm the good bacteria by extension.
- Take digestive aids – If your gut is unhealthy and damaged, chances are you aren’t making the proper digestive enzymes to properly process foods. Digestive enzymes, taken with meals, can help heal your gut.
- Eat fermented foods – If you have an imbalance gut, you have too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Eating fermented foods can help bring things back into balance. You can also take probiotic supplements, with between 20 – 50 billion live organisms per dose.
- Use herbs and supplements to heal the gut – Supplementing with L-Glutamine and herbs such as licorice root, or aloe can help to rebuild your gut lining, which is crucial to the healing process
- Feed your microbiome – We talked about probiotics, which are the actual live healthy bacteria. However, like any living thing, these little bugs need to be fed. Eat a diet rich in prebiotic foods. A prebiotic food is a high fiber food. Probiotics digest and feed on the fiber our body’s don’t process. These are foods such as beans, onions, leafy greens, or oats.
WOW! We covered a lot of territory today. I hope you aren’t too overwhelmed. The main thing to remember with your gut is what harms it, and how to heal it. Stay away from antibiotics and over the counter medications, if possible. Eat a healthy, whole foods diet, high in fiber, nutrient rich veggies and fermented foods. You really can’t go wrong eating that way.
Until next time…Namaste my friends