What is a Microbiome?
Simply put, a microbiome is a community of microbes. Each one of us has at least 100 trillion microbes or bacteria. Our guts alone are home to 500 to 1,000 different bacteria species.
Beneficial microbes break down food and produce vitamins during feed digestion. They coat our skin, protecting us from attacks by harmful microbes.
Essentially, and somewhat profoundly, we are a massive colony of bacteria (about 100 trillion bacteria), and that big ecosystem of bacteria needs to be in harmony in order to flourish.
Now, what does the microbiome regulate? Pretty much everything. Mood, focus, immunity, genetic expression, body inflammation (or lack of it), digestion, nutritional assimilation, aging and cell renewal, skin health, organ health…
Yes, the microbiome is THAT important.
As I embark on a season of brewing super-yogurt (with trillions of beneficial bacteria) by the gallons, culturing veggies (*can’t wait to teach you this!) and eating tons of veggies and fruits every day and cultivating new plants and sprouts all over my house, the microbiome is center stage!
If you’ve been troubled with anything from depression and exhaustion to allergies, skin conditions, autoimmune conditions, poor digestion, or any sort of low immune system sluggishness your microbiome can become your best friend in healing!
According to Dr. Raphael Kellman, these trillions of bacteria “inhabit our gut, mouth, lungs, nasal passages, skin, and brain. Although we’ve been aware of these bacteria for a while, until now we didn’t realize what a crucial role they play in just about every aspect of our health.” In your body you have more bacteria than you have cells, by a ratio of 9 to 1. The bacteria in our microbiome help us digest food, fight anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle pain, auto-immune diseases and even eczema and psoriasis.
The microbiome research underway is demonstrating how everything from our genetics to our longevity is actually seated in the gut in every way.
Building a better microbiome is a very big deal!
Here are 10 ways to build a better microbiome:
- Stay away from hand sanitizers!!! It’s better to be dirty than super-clean.
- Open your windows often allowing for microbial exposure.
- Do some gardening, plant some flowers, mow your lawn or do any activity that will connect you and your immune system with the trillions of microbes in the soil.
- Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Antibiotics aid in our healing because they kill bacteria, but all bacteria is not bad and is in fact essential for the health of your stomach. A study was conducted to test the long-term side-effects of antibiotics on subject’s gut biomes after taking them for a week, as reported in The Atlantic: “People who took clindamycin and ciprofloxacin saw a decrease in types of bacteria that produce butyrate, a fatty acid that lowers oxidative stress and inflammation in the intestines. The reduced microbiome diversity for clindamycin-takers lasted up to four months; for some who took ciprofloxacin, it was still going on at the 12-month check-up.”
- Eat lots of fibrous foods (think: fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds!) Studies have shown that when your stomach is void of fiber it, starts to feed off the protective mucous lining of your gut, which can cause inflammation and disease. A research team in Sweden found a link between bacteria infiltrating the mucous protective layer of your gut and the development of ulcerative colitis.
- Get a pet. Susan Lynch, PhD in the division of Gastroenterology and her team of researches at the University of California San Francisco found that, “… the presence of a dog that roams both inside and outside was associated with a significantly more diverse house dust microbiome that was enriched for species found in the gastrointestinal tract of humans.” A healthy gut micro biome can creates a strong immune system, less disease a and less allergies.
- Plant a garden – Dr. Frank Lipman suggests getting your hands dirty and eating the vegetables from your garden.
- Fermented Foods are the best! Dr.Christiane Northrup states on her website, “Fermented foods seed your gut with healthy bacteria. Eat sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir, yogurt (not processed), and kombucha. These foods are rich in prebiotics.”
- Remove sugar and processed foods from your diet. A study at Oregon State University found that a high sugar and fat diet can impede memory and learning …” fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you. It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”
- Take probiotics in super-high doses if you want the effects. Imagine: if your microbiome is 50+ trillion bacteria, what kind of dent will a tiny probiotic pill make? While they are certainly not harmful in small doses, if you want to see the effects of probiotics, research for high doses. For 10 years I’ve been prescribed VSL#3 probiotic and each dose is several trillion beneficial bacteria. Needless to say, it works wonders for my microbiome!
Here are a few additional studies on the microbiome and your rich, green life:
According to author of Your Brain on Nature, Alan Logan, “Diet and where we live and play have a tremendous influence on the microbial ecosystems on our skin and in our noses, mouths and intestines. Logan and experts from a range of disciplines at the Natural Environments Initiative workshop at Harvard School of Public Health found people who live in areas with rich plant diversity have more diverse microbiomes.”
The American Public Health Association also stated that “People of all ages and abilities enjoy higher levels of health and well-being when they have nature nearby in parks, gardens, greenways, naturalized schoolyards and playgrounds, and natural landscaping around homes and workplaces.” You need that green… everywhere!!!
Ilkka Hanski explains as well that we need that biodiversity (i.e.: it’s time to grow a garden!!!) “… University of Helsinki found microbe diversity reduced the incidence of allergies. They compared adolescents living in houses surrounded by biodiverse natural areas to those living in landscapes of lawns and concrete. From skin swabs, they learned that higher native-plant diversity appears to be associated with greater and more diverse microbial composition on the participants’ skin, which led to lower risk of a range of allergies.”
Be well and flourish in every way!!!
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