Your Micro what? Yes, your Microbiome. Maybe you have never heard the term but it happens to be a hot topic in wellness and rightly so.
It is defined as the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit an environment, creating a sort of “mini-ecosystem”. Our human microbiome is made up of communities of pathogenic bacteria (along with fungi and viruses) all of which call our bodies home. These communities exist in unique, complementary blends, and inhabit everything from our skin, to our mouths and eyes, and of course our intestines. The clusters of bacteria from different regions of the body are variously known as microbiota, including, for example, your skin microbiota, oral microbiota, vaginal mirobiota and gut microbiota, also known as “gut flora”.
Bacteria living on and in your body outnumber human cells ten to one. In fact, the total weight of bacteria in your body can weigh anywhere between two and six pounds, yikes!
Modern diets, stress and environmental toxins can upset the balance of our gut, and too much "bad" bacteria in our microbiome can create toxins that make us fat. Basically, an unhealthy microbiome, can add years to our "metabolic age".
There is help! Here are the best ways to keep our own gut flora happy so that they can help us with our health.
1. Probiotics and Probiotic-rich foods: These foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, miso and other cultured fermented foods. The gut is colonized by over 400 different species of bacteria.
2. Prebiotics and fiber: One of the easiest ways to increase the health of your microbiome is through fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that humans cannot digest because we lack the enzymes to break it down. However, our gut bacteria have these necessary enzymes and can break down fiber for their own energy and health. Prebiotics help increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium, minerals essential for bone health. Good sources of prebiotics include: onions, garlic, legumes, bananas, apples, berries and leafy greens.
3. Avoid Antibiotics: Antibiotics can be lifesaving and they have a time and place in our health. However, antibiotics tend to be over-prescribed, especially for things such as the common cold, which is a viral infection and untreatable with antibiotics. They not only kill the "bad" bacteria, but also the "good" bacteria in the gut. It could take months for the microbiome to rebound and rebuild after a course of antibiotics. And this is where No. 4 comes into play.
4. Supplements: Probiotic supplements are the perfect way to boost gut bacteria. However, not all supplements are created equal. Look for a probiotic supplement that is refrigerated and contains at least 30 different strains and 50 billion live cultures.
Remember, you are unique and so is your microbiome. Diets high in fiber from fruits and vegetables, as well as eating fermented foods can be a great way to fix your gut health. Nourishing your system is a vital part of optimizing your well-being - physically, mentally and emotionally.