Understanding Your Gut Microbiome
What is Your Microbiome?
The human microbiome is composed of bacteria, viruses and fungi that reside in and on our bodies. It has tremendous potential to impact overall health and disease risk. It helps regulate metabolism, protects against toxins/bacteria, and boosts immune function.
This post will focus mainly on our gut microbiotia /flora (which is present in the small intestine and colon in varying quantities) and explain how gut dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bacteria) greatly impacts our health.
There are numerous factors that affect the bacterial balance in our gut, and believe it or not the microbial makeup/strength of our gut begins as early as birth.
Functions of Our Gut Flora
Regulates metabolism: Gut bacteria is able to produce a variety of vitamins, make all essential and nonessential amino acids, and is imperative in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Immune Regulation: Bacteria in our gut produce antimicrobial compounds that block potential viruses or bacteria and alert our immune system to help warrant off a variety of illnesses.
Gut-Brain Axis: Our brain communicates with the gut to help promote improved digestion and absorption as well as enhances immune function by way of producing mucin; a protein that binds/rids pathogens from the body.
Symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis May Include:
- Loose Stools diarrhea, constipation
- Frequent gas, bloating, belching
- Acid reflux
- Unexplained weight gain and/or difficult weight loss
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)/ Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
- Depression and/or frequent low mood
- Halitosis (chronic bad breath)
- Joint pain
- Skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis)
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune condition
- Allergies and food sensitivities
- Chronic yeast or fungal infections
How Does Gut Dysbiosis Occur?
Factors that alter bacterial balance of the gut:
- Starts as early as birthàImproved gut flora is seen in vaginal vs. caesarean births as well as breast fed vs. formula fed infants.
- During the first year of life, the composition of our gut flora shows many individual variations-à everyone is different, genetic makeup is inevitable
- Environmental smog, air quality, exposure to toxins/molds etc.
- Food qualityàintake of whole foods vs. processed foods, pesticides, hormones, chemicals or preservatives added to foods
- Maternal gut flora can affect a future infant’s gut health for life
What the Research is Saying
Strong link between gut dysbiosis and:
- Chronic gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS and IBDà Results in: bloating, poor digestion/absorption, “leaky gut”, constipation/diarrhea
- Metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity with an exponential risk for development of cancers
Bacterial gut balance and:
- Strengthens your immune system
- Ensures improved alkalinity and prevents unwarranted inflammation within the body
- Bowel regulation
- Healthier weight
How to Get Your Gut “In Check”
- Avoid Processed foods
- Buy Organic/Non GMO when financially feasible
- Limit external exposures when possible (ie. Smoking, poor air quality) as well as internal exposures that could be detrimental such as excess alcohol intake.
- Add probiotics into your daily routine to help balance out gut dysbiosis. These live cultures can provide a protective barrier for the gut, improve immune function, digestion and bowel motility, decrease pain, lower intestinal ph, and fight inflammation. “Probiotics, especially Bifidobacteria, have been shown to influence immune-system function”
“Particular strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium show beneficial effects on risks associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes”
Sources of Probiotics Include:
Don’t Forget to Eat Prebiotics Too!
Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that nourish/support the health of the good bacteria in our gut.
“A healthy diet rich in certain fresh fruits and vegetables is the best source of prebiotic foods.”
Best Prebiotic Sources for Soluble Fiber:
- Legumes such as soybeans
- Complex grains such as whole-wheat and whole-grain oats
My Favorite Probiotic Finds at Milkandeggs.com:
Forager Unsweetened Plain Cashewgurt 24oz - $5.99/ea
Health-Ade Kombucha Cayenne Cleanse - $4.49/ea
Kimchi Spicy Pickled Cabbage - $19.99 / 7.5 lb / ea
Cover photo by @whatrobineats.