The Importance of Microbiome for Your Gut

I’ve talked about a lot of different topics over the past few weeks. This week it’s about gut health and, I’m going to get a little “science-y” on you. I hope that you don’t tune out, because what I’m going to share this week could have a big impact on your overall health.

Gut health = important stuff!

When it comes to making decisions, people often listen to their heads and their hearts. But you’ve probably had “gut feelings” as well. Sometimes that’s intuition and sometimes it could have to do with what you’ve eaten.

Maybe it’s something that just doesn’t sit right. It could be that you haven’t had dessert in a while, and you treat yourself. Or maybe something that you’ve always eaten with no problems all of a sudden gives you an upset stomach or heartburn.

That’s your gut telling you that something is wrong. Most people don’t realize it, but the gut can be pretty smart. And that is why it is vital to have a basic understanding of how your gut works so you can keep it healthy.

Microbiome, What is it

Intestinal villi. Small finger-like projections that extend into the lumen of the small intestine. Gut bacteria, flora, microbiome. 3d illustration.
Intestinal villi. Small finger-like projections that extend into the lumen of the small intestine. Gut bacteria, flora, microbiome.

In a nutshell, the microbiome consists of all of the miniscule bacteria, fungi, and viruses (also known as microbes) that live in your body. There are trillions of these in the gut alone.

Fun fact: For years, it was thought that we actually have more bacterial cells than human cells in our body. That ratio of bacteria cells to human cells in the body has recently been downsized to reflect an estimated 1:1 ratio.

In plain language, that means we are as much bacterial as we are human. But that’s making it simpler than it really is. For example, the gut microbiome alone has an estimated 300-500 of these microbes and they all have their own unique jobs to do.

It seems obvious to say, but if the microbiome isn’t working properly, your health can be affected.

How do I know if my gut is healthy or not?

As I mentioned above, have you ever just felt like you had a yucky gut feeling? There could be many causes that indicate your gut microbiome is out of whack.

Unintended weight fluctuation

Are you a stress eater or do you lose your appetite when you feel life’s pressures weighing you down? Gaining or losing weight when you don’t mean to can affect the microbiome.

Garbage in/garbage out

We are organic beings. But if we ingest high volumes of foods that are processed or contain extra additives or sugars, we throw our natural balances off. These artificial things can be harmful to the natural microbiome.

Stomach troubles

Bloating, gas, heartburn…basically anything you see mentioned in a Pepto Bismol commercial can be the result of an unhealthy gut microbiome.

Other issues

A bad gut can also manifest itself in ways you may not expect. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances, skin irritation, stress, and previously unnoticed food intolerances can all indicate that the microbiome is not as healthy as it could be.

As you can see, an unhealthy gut microbiome can result in several unwanted (and frankly unpleasant) effects in the body. Fortunately, there are a few easy steps that you can take to keep the gut microbiome balanced and healthy.

Make a happy home.

The key thing to remember when it comes to your gut is that all the little microbes need to be able to work together to keep everything healthy. How can you do that?

Increase Probiotics

This is one of the leading paths to a healthy gut. Probiotics are generally the “good” bacteria and/or yeasts that are commonly found in the gut. There is a growing industry of over-the-counter probiotics that can be taken to enhance or replace your naturally occurring ones. Talk to your doctor and get informed before trying anything new.

Decrease Antibiotics

Notice the prefixes in the previous section and this one? “Pro” and “Anti.” If you understand the prefixes, then these mean exactly what you think they should.

Antibiotics can be helpful in knocking out bad bacteria and viruses. But according to an article in Medical News Today, the CDC estimates that roughly 30% of prescribed antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily!

In other words, if you’re feeling poorly, talk to your doctor about other changes you might be able to make instead of relying solely on antibiotics.

Food choices

Adapting your diet to include gut-friendly foods can make a huge improvement in your gut health. To start, you can increase fiber and lean proteins, decrease sugars and processed foods. A full discussion on food choices for a healthy gut is a topic worth deeper exploration – look for that in the future!

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