A healthy lining of the gut can help keep infection, inflammation, and environmental toxins from entering our bloodstream and leading to chronic disease. A large part of this healthy gut lining is the normal bacteria that coat and protect it – the Microbiome.
Our Microbiome is the collection of the microbes living in a given community, like the intestines in the human body.
Our story from birth helps build our Microbiome, like how and when we were born, if we were breastfed, what kind of childhood experiences, stressors, or infections and antibiotics we’ve had, and what kind of diet we’ve been eating.
We acquire and change our balance of microbes throughout our lives. Our Microbiome can change in response to our environment.
In addition to protecting our single layer of cells in our gut separating us from the outside world, the trillions of microbes have many other important functions.
Did you know that your bacteria can “talk” to your DNA?
Bacteria can send signals to our human cells that turn on or off our genetics. This is a fascinating area of research and studies have shown that having certain bacteria can affect our mood, anxiety, inflammation, our risk of heart disease and even our weight.
Here is an excellent paper from a highly reputable journal highlighting multiple studies about how our Microbiome can affect our brain function and behavior. The DNA of our bacteria outnumber our own human cell DNA by 10 to 1!
Knowing our microbiome and health of our gut is an important layer in functional medicine, but we still need to put all of the information together.
How does our microbiome interact with our specific genome? And how does our Microbiome play a role in our nutrition status? (One of the jobs of the microbiome is to synthesize B vitamins and vitamin K.) How is our environment and stress affecting our Microbiome and gut health?
When we look at gut health as an important component of the whole person, we can target our lifestyle and nutrition guidance to the most effective recommendations for a unique you. The best way to improve your Microbiome is through diet.
Here are some general tips on eating for a healthy Microbiome:
- You can stimulate the growth of good bacteria (also known as probiotics) in your gut by eating specific foods the bacteria are known to thrive on. These foods are known as prebiotics.
- Eat plenty of high-fiber vegetables. The more color variety the better!
- Limit or avoid processed foods, especially those with added sugars or artificial sweeteners and coloring.