The Microbiome and why you should care about it

You may have heard this term before and maybe you haven’t. I recently attended a continuing education from The Scientist on the microbiome and it was absolutely mind blowing and exciting, but to be fair it would probably have put most people to sleep.

Lets first define what the microbiome is. The microbiome is a collection of microorganisms that live in a community in or on a certain area of the body. We have several different types of microbiomes and a few examples are on the skin, GI tract (AKA Gut), mouth, nose, and more recently discovered the blood. You may be wondering what types of microbes we are talking about here. Well All kinds of microbes from viruses and bacteria to even bacteriophages and parasites! Bacteriophage sounds crazy right (in case you are wondering this is a virus that infects bacteria)?!? Not Only are they beneficial, we absolutely have to have them to survive.

Now you may be wondering where they came from? You were actually born with some of them, some you’re exposed to in utero, while others you get during the birth process, and the microbiome is mainly shaped in the first few years of life(these first years are critical for setting the tone of a person’s health). In the webinar I attended the scientists were studying how the microbiome was shaped in the first few years of life. They showed what happened when kids were exposed to antibiotics when they were ill, also children who were born by C-section, and those that were born vaginally. It was really fascinating to see (graphically) the changes that happen over the first few years of life. There were dips of microbiota whenever antibiotics were administered and also there were major differences between microbiota of vaginal birth versus C-section babies.

Ok so now that you know you have trillions of organisms inhabiting your body lets talk about why they matter so much. Stay with me its not as gross or as bad as you think! Because the microbiome is such a Hot Topic right now there are many many scientists out in the world studying different parts of the microbiome. What is being discovered is that the microbiome basically controls every process that happens in the body in some way, shape, or form. I know I know this sounds so crazy, but really I promise you it’s true. One study that I read showed how different beneficial microbes interact with different interleukins and different cytokines. Interleukins and cytokines are substances in your body that control and communicate with your immune system (this is a very simplified definition). A more recent study that I read reveals that some microbes actually even produce neurotransmitters like Gaba. Wow so they actually control your brain and how you think! I know this sounds like a stretch, but after reading the studies I am a believer. When patients are given fecal transplants, in other words they were given microbiota from another person or healthy donor, what happened was fascinating. People began to take on the characteristics of the other person. If the other person was obese then they would become obese. It’s really fascinating and most people don’t even realize how important these microbes are. They basically control everything in our body or they are least related to the control of everything in our body. Without them we would be lost; they train our immune system to not react to benign things, they keep our inflammation down, they process our food, they produce vitamins and co-factors for absorbing vitamins, they produce hormones and chemicals as well as communication factors that our body needs. Have you ever heard the term you are what you eat? The saying should actually be you are what your microbes are!

So lets talk about some main things you can do to maintain a healthy microbiome:

1. Only take antibiotics if absolutely necessary. My definition of necessary is it is a life or death situation or you know you wont be able to heal without them. Otherwise in our house we use natural methods of healing and we tough it out!

2. Feed your gut bugs with prebiotics. These are foods like artichoke, leek, onions, garlic, asparagus, jicama, green bananas and plantains, and several others.

3. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are an excellent way to nourish and diversify your microbiome. Studies have shown that lots of diversity= amazing health. We do kombucha, jun, kimchi, sourkraut, yogurt, water kefir, milk kefir, and anything else we can get our hands on!

4. Dont stress! Stress and anger trigger physiological changes that hurt the environment for your microbes.

5. Stay away from artificial sugars they are toxic for your microbiome.

6. Skip the NSAIDs, they create an acidic environment in your large intestine preventing many beneficial microbes from being able to grow and thrive.

7. Try to be as chemical free as possible. All of the additives and chemicals in our food, as well as antibiotics from animal farming, are detrimental to our gut flora. We try to eat as clean as possible. The chemicals and antibiotics are unavoidable in todays age, but you can at least reduce your overall toxicity by going organic and not eating anything that comes in a package or a box.

Well I could just go on and on, but I think that is enough information for one post. Ill be posting more specific information on specific microbes and what they do in the future.

Remember you are what your microbes are, so be good to your bugs!

Dont believe what you read? Go to pubmed or medscape and search the term microbiome. You will find thousands of articles of research regarding the things in this post😁 happy hunting!

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