The Microbiome and having good bacteria for a Healthy Gut
When I was growing up in Singapore, I used to buy and eat food from hawkers in the street and from open air and wet food markets. Hawkers did not exactly have the cleanest and most hygienic cooking practices back then and now looking back it must have been a breeding ground of all kinds of bacteria. Somehow though, I grew up in this environment and cannot remember getting sick with tummy bugs or massive problems with my health as a child. It got me to thinking about bacteria and the health of our gut and how the times have changed and how this has caused so many new health challenges for many people. And now that I understand this better, it makes a lot more sense to me about why it is so important for us to keep our gut ‘flora’ healthy with good bacteria.
When we think about bacteria most of us think of it as a bad thing that causes us to get sick or have some sort of disease. What I have learned is that there are actually trillions of beneficial bacteria present within us all the time.
In fact, it is this bacteria that makes up whats known as our microbiome – a community of ‘microbes’ that makes up our intestinal "ecosystem" that benefits our gut health and our immune system. Many of these microbes are beneficial to the overall health of the body, hence why they are commonly referred to as ‘good bacteria’.
In recent times the scientific community has come to acknowledge the important role that certain bacteria have in fostering a strong immune system and in keeping us healthy. Some bacteria are actually vital for keeping our digestive systems running smoothly, keeping our hormone levels balanced, keeping our brains working properly and also to keep our immune system boosted.
The bacteria that make up this group of microbes are capable of sending inflammatory signals to the brain and elsewhere throughout the body, changing how food is digested, the way hormones are produced, and the capability of insulin to lower glucose levels in the blood.
So why is all of this relevant to our health?
Well some researchers have identified that up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome. Because our microbiome is home to trillions of microbes, these tiny organisms are what help to govern nearly every function of the human body in some way. The importance of our gut microbiome cannot be overstated: Poor gut health can contribute to a number of disorders like arthritis, dementia, skin conditions, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, as well as cancer.
The health and state of our microbiome is dependant on a range of factors from the food you eat, how much stress you are experiencing etc. These microbes are adaptive to any changes in our environment both internal and from external sources. So if you are experiencing high levels of stress, or eating foods that are ‘pro-inflammatory’ you are inadvertently changing the state and environment of your gut.
In order to support a healthy environment of good bacteria, we would need to look at how to support our microbiome. Things that impact on our gut health and microbiome include:
- Environmental chemicals, toxins etc found in household products, make up, beauty products, deodarants and perfumes
- Medications especially antibiotics
- antibiotics from food (animals that are injected with antibiotics)
- babies who are born via c-section
- babies who are not breastfed
According to Dr Axe “Research over the past several decades has revealed evidence that there’s an inextricable link between a person’s microbiota, digestion, body weight and metabolism. In an analysis of humans and 59 additional mammalian species, microbiome environments were shown to differ dramatically depending on the species particular diet.
The flip side is also true: Your gut health can impact how your body extracts nutrients from your diet and stores fat. Gut microbiota seem to play an important role in obesity, and changes in bacterial strains in the gut have been shown to lead to significant changes in health and body weight after only a few days.
So it is vital for us to decrease inflammation within our bodies and gut through keeping our microbiome environment well supported. A diet that nourishes our gut with Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics is an essential component of establishing healthy gut bacteria and flora.
Check my blog articles on Prebiotics and Probiotics for a more in depth look at each of these and where and how you can start to incorporate these foods into your diets.
For more info on the human microbiome click on the links below: