General Health

Gut Health: The Microbiome You Don’t Hear About

What is the Microbiome?

If you have ever explored wellness in today’s health landscape, you have likely come across the industry’s most popular buzzword: the microbiome.

Since it was not generally recognized until the late 1990s, the microbiome has become an increasingly sought-after topic in the past decade as research has found it more influential to our overall well-being than ever.

Did you know that we are more bacteria than humans?

Our bodies are mainly comprised of nonhuman, microbial cells (microorganisms, microbes for short) — referred to in total as the microbiome.

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Your microbiome is an ecosystem of microbes, which are genetic organisms including bacteria, fungi, and other viruses. Our bodies contain over 100 trillion of them, and they outnumber our cells ten to one.

The Microbiome is More than Your Gut

Much of what you see published today will refer to the ‘gut microbiome’. This is because the majority of microbes live in your large intestine.

But the gut microbiome should not be solely synonymous with the microbiome.

The microbiome is not just our gut health, it also comprises our skin, lungs, brain, noses, throats, genitals and digestive system as a whole.

Why is Your Microbiome Important?

We humans have been made up of microbes since the dawn of our time. From the moment we are born, bacteria begin to influence and affect our health. Having a supportive, and symbiotic relationship with our body’s bacteria helps us maintain greater overall wellness.

The microbiome is vital to:

  • Aiding your digestion, allowing you to better absorb food
  • Supporting your immune system
  • Producing vitamins your body needs to function
  • Insulating you from toxins
  • Improved brain health
  • Fighting diseases
  • Improved longevity and immunity

What is it Considered good to have a Healthy Microbiome?

The key to a healthy microbiome is having a good balance of the ‘friendly’ and ‘unfriendly’ bacteria in your body. Most of the bacteria in your body are friendly bacteria, where both the human body and microbes benefit from each other symbiotically. The unfriendly bacteria are pathogenic or can promote disease. In a balanced microbiome, both friendly and unfriendly bacteria coexist without any issues.

This balance comes from both richness and diversity:

Richness — the total number of different bacteria species in your microbiome.

Diversity — the amount/count of each bacteria species in your microbiome.

For example, let’s say that richness is the number of different doctors you find in a hospital — family physicians, surgeons, pediatricians, cardiologists, dermatologists, etc. Then diversity would be the amount or count of each type of doctor: 20 family physicians, 20 surgeons, 5 pediatricians, 5 cardiologists, and 30 dermatologists.

What would throw your microbiome off balance then?

Let’s say there is a large need for pediatricians in the hospital, but you only have 5 pediatricians. This will cause an imbalance in the hospital demand versus availability — especially since you have 30 dermatologists and you may not need all of them.

Note that genetics, richness, and diversity are also what make everyone’s microbiome unique and have different needs.

Without diversity or richness, the microbiome becomes unbalanced, which can cause:

  • Inflammation and disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain
  • Poor skin health
  • Debilitated brain health

The more rich and diverse the bacteria is in your body, the better balanced your microbiome is.

How to Build Richness and Diversity in Your Microbiome?

Eating more unprocessed, whole, diverse foods, spending time in nature and the outdoors, sanitizing less, and avoiding antibiotic use will develop your microbiome further.

A Diverse Diet

As mentioned earlier, usually all of the focus is on what you feed your gut. Your gut health is of utmost importance — especially since our source of food diversity has been at a rapid decline, and we know that diverse food intake promotes microbiome health.

Wondering what a diverse diet is? Read here for more information on recommended microbiome diets. Again, note that every individual’s needs are unique and that one nutrition path doesn’t work for everyone.

Author

 Yash Batra

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