Microbiome: Who You Really Are?
I’ve heard about the microbiome at several talks that I’ve been to lately, first in March from Dr. Richard DuBois when he was speaking on how to Transform the Nation’s Health, and then in April from Bo Forbes at the Toronto Yoga Conference when she was talking about The Gut Connection. Some researchers even suggest that what makes you ‘you’ is more influenced by your unique microbiome than your own cells!
So, first off, what does ‘microbiome’ mean? Well, it is the community of bacteria that share our body space. This means bacteria, fungi, yeasts, etc that live on our skin, in our mucous membranes, and in our gut.
You may not have given much thought to this, but these microorganisms largely shape who we are. If you’ve ever seen an Activia yogurt commercial then you’ll likely know that our gut bacteria have influences on our digestion, and if you’ve breast fed a baby and experienced thrust (or had a vaginal yeast infection) then you’re probably aware of yeasts on our body.
But, did you know that the microbiome accounts for 1-3% of our body mass (possibly up to 3 pounds) and that we actually have 10 times more microbial cells in/on our bodies than human cells?
Whoa, when I found this out, I was a combination of grossed out, intrigued, and curious.
What Do All of these Microbes DO?
Well, more and more research is being done to answer that exact question, but so far there seem to be implications in all kind of health and disease states in the body such as:
- auto-immune diseases (like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and fibromylagia)
- some cancers
- and mental and mood disorders (such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and other neuro-chemical imbalances)
You may have even heard of hospitals doing fecal transplants for patients with a type of uncontrolled diarhea caused by the bacteria C. difficile. When traditional antibiotics and modern medicine fail these patients, the hospitals literally take poop from a healthy person and introduce it into the bowels of the infected person in an effort to transfer some healthy bacteria to fight of thee C. difficile. This procedure is 85-90% effective with very few side effects. Sounds pretty gross, but it works!
Some alternative practitioners are even taking it a step farther and doing fecal transplants for patients with some of the other conditions listed above in an effort to balance their microbiome. There is even a public stool bank in the US that you can get stool from and I found links online with ‘how tos’ to do this at home! (Note: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS!) Would you put someone else’s poop in you to lose weight?
Fortunately, unless you have a bad case of C. difficile, you don’t need to go to that extreme! Read on to learn what you can do…
What Causes Microbiome Imbalances?
The current theory that is coming out of the research is that our microbiome is influenced by all sorts of things, but the main factor is our environment – what we eat, what chemicals/toxins we are exposed to, and stress. These are the big 3!
When we don’t provide the right environment to nurture a healthy microbiome, the types and proportions of ‘bugs’ (bacteria, fungi, and yeast) change and can lead to or influence our health and disease. This is why it’s important to not only consume beneficial bacteria in our diets, but to also ensure that we are nourishing them and providing an environment for them to exist in harmony with us.
What’s the best way to ensure an imbalance? Have poor sleep habits, unmanaged stress, exposure to harmful chemicals, and most importantly eat like CRAP (think: Carbonated beverages, Refined sugar, Artificial sweeteners, colours, and flavours, and Processed foods). I learned long ago about the link between convenience and fast foods and depression, and now it seems that the effect spreads even further to influence not only our mood and our health, but our whole microbiome too!
No, I’m not really suggesting you live this lifestyle, but if you do, you better expect to pay for it with your mood, energy, and health.
How Can You Nourish a Healthy Microbiome?
1. Eat more FOOD (think fruits & veggies, organic lean protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and drink lots of water) – avoid processed as much as possible and really focus on the fruits and veggies! (Hint: if it is an ingredient – yay! If it has an ingredient list – stay away!)
2. Include sources of probiotics (or healthy bacteria) in your diet. This will help replenish your natural healthy bacteria stores. Sweetened yogurt (like Activia) is NOT the way to do this since the sugar feed the less healthy gut ‘bugs’. Instead opt for fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and other fermented pickled veggies, kombucha, and water keifer. (Hint: you can get kombucha in Chatham from The Hungry Vegan and Eat What’s Good)
3. Include prebiotics in your diet too – this is the food that the healthy bacteria eat. You need this to sustain and nourish your friendly gut ‘bugs.’ Prebiotics are mostly fibres and come from plant foods (ie. root veggies, fruits, beans, lentils, etc). (Hint: make sure you’re eating a variety of plant foods to nourish yourself and your microbiome 🙂
4. Take good care of yourself – we all know this but it is good to be reminded sometimes… get an appropriate amount of sleep, move your body, manage your stress, and minimize toxin exposure. (Hint: if you need some help on how to do any or all of this then send me an email to Lisa@healthappeal.ca and we can work on a strategy for you)
5. Consider adding Juice Plus, a concentrated fruit and veggie source, to your daily routine. It not only includes the good stuff from the fruits & veggies, but it also has fiber, prebiotics, and enzymes to keep your body and your microbiome happy and healthy! (Hint: this is great for kids too and is what I use for myself and my daughter)
There you have it, 5 steps to feed your body and the millions of cells that you’re carrying around with it. You’ve got this microbiome anyway, so let’s ensure it is a balanced one that will support your health and happiness!