WHAT IS THE MICROBIOME?
The microbiome consists of the microscopic organisms that are present on and within our body. Most are commensal, meaning they live together to benefit us humans, and some are pathogenic meaning if these microbes take over they can harm us and cause disorders.These organisms are vital for proper functioning of the body’s systems. The microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Just like our genes make us unique, we all have a unique microbiome, no two are alike.
WHERE IS THE MICROBIOME?
You can find these microorganisms on your skin, in your mouth, respiratory tract, digestive track, urinary tract, and in women, the vaginal canal. There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms. Most of the microbes can be found in the digestive tract which affects our health the most because most of our immune system is found in the gut as well.
HOW CAN THE MICROBIOME AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
From birth, we are exposed to different types of bacteria depending on whether we are delivered vaginally or by C-section which determines the type of bacteria that develops in our gut. Then the first year of life, our gut bacteria is then influenced by whether we are breastfed or formula fed. Both situations can affect our microbiome by how we will respond to external and internal factors as we go through life. This will then determine if we are likely to develop symptoms or disorders or if our microbiome can protect us, based on the microbiome that develops early in life.
WHAT CAN AFFECT THE MICROBIOME?
As I mentioned, there are external and internal factors that affect our microbiome. External factors include food, chemicals/toxins, infections, stress, trauma, pollution, and radiation. Internal factors include our body’s pH (which should be more alkaline), inflammation, elevated blood sugar, and medications.
Food is the largest factor in America that affects our microbiome. Most Americans consume what is called the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is high in protein, processed carbohydrates, added sugars, processed/unhealthy fats, and processed ingredients added to our foods for color, taste, texture, and to prolong shelf life. Most people may also have food sensitivities and allergies that can present with a wide range of symptoms, not necessarily just a typical allergic reaction like for example hives, but also may have nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, rash, sinus congestion, asthma, joint pain, muscle pain, nerve pain, headaches, and many more. If we eat foods that we are sensitive or allergic to, or foods that are heavily processed, this will negatively affect our healthy, good gut bacteria. We eat food not only to supply our body with nutrients but to feed our gut bacteria.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO SUPPORT THE MICROBIOME?
Most people will think taking probiotics is the best way. However, no probiotic is made the same and most are not regulated. Plus, certain probiotics may not contain the right bacteria or right amounts of bacteria that your gut needs. Sometimes it can make your symptoms or [dis]ease worse.
The best way to support your microbiome is to be mindful of the food you are consuming. Most of your food should be whole, living foods including at least 6 cups of fruits and vegetables, as well as 1/2 cup of beans and legumes. If you choose to consume meat, stick to one serving a day, about the size of your fist. Make sure it has been wild caught, grass-fed/finished, no antibiotics and hormones. Avoid processed meats such deli meat, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages, as they are packed with nitrites and preservatives which not only keep bacteria from growing on the meat but also kills our gut bacteria. Also avoid foods with added sugars and processed ingredients as both cause inflammation in our gut which affects our microbiome. If you are able to, get tested for food sensitivities and allergies which will determine if you are reacting to certain foods.
At Radiant Health, we have partnered up with Viome which determines the best foods for your microbiome based off of your poop!