What’s the Microbiome and Why Should I Care?
The human microbiota consists of a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other single-celled animals that live in and on our bodies. The microbiome is the name given to all genes inside these microbial cells.
Microbial genes significantly outnumber human genes by a ratio of 100:1 and we call ourselves Human because of this 1%! So that’s interesting! We’re 1% Human….hmmm.
Each of us has a unique microbiota and a unique microbiome. The microbes that live in your body are determined by what you're exposed to throughout your life (diet, soil exposure, antibiotic use, foods you eat, activity level, viruses and bacteria you’re exposed to at any given time). These colonies are constantly changing. Our geography, health status, stress, diet, age, gender, and everything you touch all affect how our microbiota expresses itself.
The diversity of the human genome pales in comparison to the diversity of the microbiome. Right now, is the biggest study in the History of Science is being done and it's called "The Human Microbiome Project". There are 3 ½ - 20 million non-redundant genes in the human gut microbiome compared to the 22,000 genes in the entire human genome!
The diversity among the microbiome of individuals however, is immense compared to their genome. Individuals are about 99.9% identical in their genome profile but can be up to 90% different in their microbiome profile. That’s pretty amazing!
This suggests that there’s a need for personalized medicine according to our microbiome profile rather than the popular genome profile presently used.
We're not just simply individuals on this planet...EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US IS AN ENTIRE ECO-SYSTEM. Like our planet, the body has many differnt environments, each with their own unique set of aboitic and biotic factors.
Our individual microbiomes are sometimes called our “genetic footprint” because they help determine our individual DNA, our hereditary factors and so much more. The bacteria that make up our microbiomes can be found on the inside and outside of our bodies (from the surfaces we touch and in the environment we come in contact with).
There are bacteria in the gut microbiome that produce chemicals that have been found to contribute to heart disease and possibly linked to every disease process and autoimmune disease known. We know the gut microbiome benefits the brain because the microbiome bacteria produce chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. (ie. serotonin, an antidepressant and stress reducing neurotransmitters). Actually, 80% of all our Serotonin is produced in the gut.
Our gut is physically connected to the brain through our Vagus Nerve. The Vagus Nerve (which is actually 2 Nerve branches almost always referred to as one) is formally called the pneumogastric nerve, it is the tenth cranial nerve and interfaces with parasympathetic systems of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract Which means that our gut is connected to every system in our body due to this Vagus Nerve branch.
This Vagus Nerve connection is a two-way communication, from the brain to the gut and from the gut back up to the brain. It was once believed that it was just a one-way communication from the brain to the gut but it has recently been discovered that it’s not only a two-way communication but there is far more information coming out of the gut and going to the brain than the other way around. Therefore, the gut microbiome affects the overall brain health via the messages sent to the brain through these nerves.
Studies have shown that people with various disorders have a different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to people without these disorders. Pretty fascinating! They’ve also discovered recently that there is a bacteria connection with Auto-Immune diseases and the bacteria found in the gut.
We Can You Improve Our Gut Microbiome
Eating a diverse range of foods: More diversity means more diverse bacteria.
Eating fermented foods: that contain healthy bacteria, mainly Lactobacilli, that can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut.
Limiting artificial sweeteners: Evidence has shown that artificial sweeteners like aspartame increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Cutting out all processed sugars: Evidence has also shown that processed sugars not along allow the “bad” bacteria to grow but that it contributes to the disease process of the whole system.
Eating prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria (being the food for the Probiotic bacteria in the gut).
If you’re a new Mother breastfeeding for at least six months: Breastfeeding is very important for the development of the gut baby’s microbiome. Children who are breastfed for at least six months have more beneficial Bifidobacteria than those who are bottle-fed.
Eating whole grains: Whole grains contain fiber and beneficial carbs like beta-glucan, which are digested by gut bacteria, that can benefit weight, cancer risk, diabetes and other disorders.
Eating foods rich in polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds that are broken down by the microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth.
Taking a probiotic supplement: Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the gut to a healthy state after dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body). They do this by "reseeding" the gut with healthy microbes.
Taking antibiotics ONLY when necessary: Antibiotics flush out all bacteria in the gut, lowering the immune system’s ability to response (if an unhealthy bacteria were to be introduced there would be no healthy bacteria available to fight it off), also over use can potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance and many other disease processes.
Some research shows that up to 90 % (if not ALL) of disease can be traced, in some, way back to the gut and the microbiome.
Foods that promote inflammation and reduce the good bacteria in the gut:
Refined vegetable oils: (canola,corn and soybean oils, which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids).
Pasteurized dairy products: (common allergens)
Refined carbohydrates: (are forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature) are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream (causing risky spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels) and processed grain products.
Conventional meat, poultry and eggs: (high in omega-6s due to feeding the animals corn and cheap ingredients that negatively affect their microbiomes).
Added sugars: (found in the most of packaged snacks, breads, condiments, canned items, cereals, etc.)
Trans fats/hydrogenated fats: (used in packaged/processed products and most fried foods).
High antioxidant foods: Help reduce gut damage caused by oxidative stress and turn down an overactive immune system.
Anti-inflammatory foods should be the base of your diet … some include:
Fresh vegetables (all kinds): loaded with phytonutrients that are known to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A variety and a minimum of four to five servings per day. Some of the best include beets; carrots; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale); dark, leafy greens (collard greens, kale, spinach); onions; peas; salad greens; sea vegetables; and squashes. Eat the colors of the Rainbow!
Organic Whole fruit (not juice): Fruit contains various antioxidants like resveratrol and flavonoids, which are attributed to cancer prevention and brain health. Three to four servings per day is a good amount for most people, especially apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, nectarines, oranges, pears, pink grapefruit, plums, pomegranates, red grapefruit or strawberries.
Organic Herbs, spices and teas: turmeric, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, etc., plus green tea and organic coffee in moderation.
Probiotics: Probiotic foods contain “good bacteria” that colonize your gut and fight off bad bacteria. Try to include probiotic foods like kombucha, kvass, kefir, Kimchi, Sauerkraut or other cultured veggies.
Organic Wild-caught fish, cage-free eggs and grass-fed/pasture-raised meats: higher in omegs-3 fatty acids than farm-raised foods and good sources of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients like zinc, selenium and B vitamins.
Healthy fats: grass-fed butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts/seeds in moderation.
Organic Ancient grains and legumes/beans: best when sprouted and 100 percent unrefined/whole. Two to three servings per day (or less is best) especially Ansazi beans, adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, black rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa.
Organically and Locally grown are always the best choice no matter where you are.
With all of this said…
I want to remind you that EVERY SINGLE PERSON’S MICROBIOME IS UNIQUE! EACH ONE OF US IS A WALKING TALKING ECO-SYSTEM!!!! What might be good for my Eco-System might be unhealthy for your Eco-System. The above suggestions are just that... suggestions and education. I recommend that you get your own personal microbiome tested via a Functional Medicine Doctor, Naturopath, or Alternative Practitioner that is trained in this area, to find out what your unique needs are for a healthy environment in your own inner Eco-System.
What do you want to grow in your garden?