Do you have healthy microbiome? In case you’re wondering, I’m referring to the collection of microscopic bacteria, fungi, viruses archaea and eukaryotas that live in the body, mainly in the gut. These are actually now under consideration as a separate organ that promotes immune activity and digestion. You hear about these “belly bugs” everywhere. There are advertisements or yogurt as a probiotic, foods that provide prebiotic benefits to feed the probiotic bacteria and even more information on how healthy microbes can affect what might seem unrelated parts of the body. Microbiome even play a role in your mental health.
You’re outnumbered and we’re just learning who is friendly.
The area devoted to the study of the “second human genome” or second set of genetic materials, is relatively new. Scientists are still trying to figure not only what is in your body, but the role each bacteria or microorganism plays. If taken by count, not weight, your cells are outnumbered by 10 to one when it comes to the trillions of microbes in and on your body. One estimate is there’s at least five thousand different types of microbes. Many from the gut die as soon as exposed to air. Other places these microbes “hang out” are on the skin, in your mouth and in the vagina, even though the gut has the most.
Microbes play an important role in good health.
If you haven’t surmised by now that microbes help keep you regular, you probably aren’t listening to yogurt commercials. The bacteria are an important part of the digestive process, not only breaking down food and reaping the energy, but also producing important roles like producing enzymes, neurotransmitters, like serotonin, and vitamins, like vitamin K. They help the metabolic system and also the immune system. They also keep their microbe community under control by maintaining a balance between good and bad microbes.
The best way to improve the health of your gut microbiome is by eating healthy foods.
You won’t get any cheers welcoming processed foods from these microbes. In fact, some foods contain emulsifiers that act like scrubbing bubbles (some are actually like detergents) on the intestinal lining, leading to inflammation throughout the system and increasing the risk of conditions like diabetes. Low fiber foods won’t feed your microbes. They need fiber, including soluble, insoluble and food-based resistant starch, to be their healthiest. These are prebiotics that help them grow.
- One study showed that people with type 2 diabetes had a distinctive gut microbiome and finding that was more predictive of diabetes than BMI. When people had a gastric bypass, their microbiome changed.
- Even some “bad bugs” may do a job that’s important. For instance, healthy people have strains of E. coli and enterococci. The science is still too young to understand why.
- There is a belief that the more diverse your bacteria, the healthier you are. Western civilization, particularly America, has a less diverse collection of bacteria than those from underdeveloped nations.
- Antibiotics change the microbiome in the gut, especially when given early in life, like during childhood and infancy. It may even shift it toward metabolic abnormalities, obesity and autoimmune disease.