Called one of the top scientific discoveries of the 21st century, the human microbiome, cannot be ignored. It’s a game changer for better understanding disease and health. The microbiome is a crew of bacteria (also referred to as microorganisms) that live in and outside the human body. In fact, there are 100 trillion of these and they account for more than 2 pounds of body weight. These inconspicuous, life-enhancing bacteria support your health in numerous ways including: a healthy immune system, improving digestion, and synthesizing important nutrients. Research studies find your microbiome can influence everything from cardiovascular disease , diabetes and other autoimmune diseases , blood pressure , and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

As it turns out, human bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10:1. In other words, we are only 10 percent human and 90 percent bacterial cells . More and more research has found that human health depends largely on those bacteria. Most of your bacteria is housed in your gut specifically, the small intestine and colon. It has been discovered that 70% of your immune system is controlled by your gut microbiome and it contains more serotonin (feel good neurotransmitter) than in your brain . Many factors, such as poor diet, aging, medications, illness, stress, environmental pollution or infection can negatively affect your microbiome and allows harmful bacteria to dominate and diminish overall health. Truly, supporting the health of your microbiome is your first line of defense against illness and disease.

Think of your gut microbiome as your inner garden. Just like a garden, it’s imperative to water and nourish it or else it will not grow, thrive and flourish. The following tips will help you keep your inner garden healthy so you can reap the benefits:

Eat plenty of fermented and cultured foods:

  • Our food choices directly influence our internal bacteria. By eating a variety of these fermented and cultured foods you have the advantage of diversifying your microbiome.
  • Enjoy fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, cauliflower, pickles and carrots.
  • Other good choices are kombucha, yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh and natto.
  • But, be sure to look on the labels for the term “active” or “live” cultures.
  • Begin slowly, eating just 1/4 cup a day. This is because if you are killing off more bad bacteria faster than re-populating the good guys, you may be uncomfortable with gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or stomach cramps. If this happens, cut back until you are comfortable and then proceed adding more.
  • These gut-enhancing foods are on the rise in markets, so chances are you will find something that you like.

Take a probiotic supplement:

The word probiotics in Latin means “for life”. Even though it’s better to get the majority of your probiotics from food, probiotic supplements are an exception, especially if you don’t eat fermented and cultured foods on a regular basis. Plus, you can get a variety of probiotics strains from a supplement. Remember, no one-size-fits-all probiotics.

What’s a probiotic strain?

  • Our food choices directly influence our internal bacteria. By eating a variety of these fermented and cultured foods you have the advantage of diversifying your microbiome.
  • Strains are different probiotics that have different jobs.
  • Strains are listed on the back label of the probiotic supplement in Latin.
  • A good starting place is to colonize with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. From here, many other strains can be added to compliment this base.
  • As with fermented foods, start slowly.
  • As you progress, to get the most bang for your buck and gut, rotate your probiotic supplements. In other words, don’t buy the same probiotic supplement each time since it will stop working because that strain has already done its job. Therefore, it’s important to buy a supplement with different strain(s) each time so they can work on making different bacteria healthy. And remember, there is no one-size-fits-all probiotic.

Modern life is waging war on our friendly bacteria. While our society tends to fear bacteria, the sterilizing of our environments has unintentionally distressed the health of our microbiome. Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics has worsened our gut health, which may be adding to illness and disease.

Go outdoors:

For most of human history, the outside was always part of the inside. But today, most humans spend 90% of their time indoors. According to a recent report, “lack of exposure to the outdoors can in and of itself cause your microbiome to become ‘deficient’” . Do some yard work. Get your hands dirty in the garden. The report continues, “getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms from the plants and in the soil”.

Open your windows:

Research shows that “opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you” .

Good gut health is central to our overall well-being. No matter what your health and wellness situation or practices,
it’s time you cultivated a friendship with your microbiome. This can literally bring “life” to your overall health.

References:

1. http://www.economist.com/node/21560523
2. http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21571844-gut-bacteria-help-regulate-blood-pressure-sniffing-out-hypertension
3. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/11/18/244526773/gut-bacteria-might-guide-the-workings-of-our-minds
4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bies.201400071/abstract

5. https://draxe.com/probiotic-foods/
6. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28934415#
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22278670

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