Your microbiome is the community of microorganisms living in your body. For every human cell, we have 10 bacterial cells, meaning we are made up of 90% bacteria! We have more bacterial DNA than human DNA. There are also organisms like archaea, yeast, fungi, viruses, and other micro-organisms that can live symbiotically (in harmony) with us or cause illnesses if imbalanced. Research continues to emerge on the link between our microbiome community and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, asthma, arthritis, mood disorders, certain cancers and more.
Researchers are finding that healthier habits can help maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestines and ultimately prevent disease. Here are some tips to maintain your community of microorganisms:
1. You are what your microbiome eats. Feed the good bacteria high quality foods
to keep them happy and working for you. For example, fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are pre-biotics, which stimulate the growth of
beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics give good bacteria the fiber and nutrients they need to survive while giving us the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other substances we need to digest properly. Note: Monitor how your digestion reacts to high fiber foods, as everyone responds differently. While high fiber pre-biotics are healthy for most people, they can also aggravate gastrointestinal upset in people with IBS, celiac, chron’s, SIBO, or other digestive illnesses.
2. Limit packaged food products with refined grains, sweets, and artificial
sweeteners. Heavily processed foods don’t give good bacteria food to break down. They may also stimulate the growth of less desirable bacteria and could negatively impact the microbiome.
especially when eating meat and dairy, as these can contain antibiotics, artificial
growth hormones, and pesticides that may inhibit the growth of probiotics.
4. Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary- they kill bad bacteria, but
also kill the good ones. If you need to take antibiotics, make sure to simultaneously eat fermented foods and take a good probiotic supplement to replenish the good bacteria.
5. Eat fermented foods daily! They contain a diversity of live beneficial communities of
microorganisms that work in concert to keep you healthy. They also happen to be
delicious! Note: fermented vegetables do not contain vinegar. Read more here.
6. Stay consistent! Since our microbiome community changes on a daily basis in
response to the external environment, it’s important to consistently feed your
microbiome. One or two cookies once in a while, for example, won’t destroy your
microbiome, but your overall lifestyle will make a difference. What are you eating,
drinking and doing 90% of the time?
7. Manage stress and move! Establishing balance and taking care of ourselves is
tough! However, research shows that stress is the root cause of many illnesses;
when you are stressed, you are more susceptible to harmful bacteria. It’s important to take time for yourself to relax and do what you love. Even if it’s just a 5-10 minute workout, doing a few stretches after bathroom breaks, setting a timer to do a breathing exercise, listening to dance music on your way to work, or taking a hot bath before bed, working a daily practice into your routine will reduce stress and make you feel better! Every little bit helps!
For more information on the microbiome and how you can improve yours, stay tuned for my e-book: The Healthy Microbiome Toolkit, coming out this summer!
Cyran JF, O’Mahoney M. The microbiome-gut-brain axis: from bowel to behavior.