Understanding the Microbiome - Probiotics

Understanding the Microbiome

Understanding the Microbiome

What it is, why it’s important and how to support it.

Microbiome. The word alone sounds complicated. In fact, the microbiome is one of the body’s most complex systems — and one of its most important.

Essentially, the microbiome is the collection of microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) that lives in and on the human body. These microbes number in the trillions and impact nearly every bodily function. In fact, the human body has about 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells, most of which reside in the large intestine. This collection of microbes is known as the gut microbiome.

While promoting healthy digestion and nutrient absorption is the most obvious role of the gut microbiome, it isn’t the only role. The healthy bacteria of the gut microbiome also impacts the body’s inflammatory response, immunity (because up to 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut), and even functions like mood, blood pressure and cognitive function. Scientists are still understanding how exactly the microbiome can do all of this, but one thing’s clear: a healthy microbiome is linked to overall health.

So how can you support a healthy microbiome? Here are five simple ways:

  1. Repopulate with probiotic-rich foods.

One, or ideally two, servings of probiotics per day will serve up healthy bacteria and keep the microbiome running smoothly. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled vegetables are all natural sources of probiotics. Tip: Purchase these products from the refrigerated section to be sure that the cultures remain intact.

  1. Take a supplement.

Probiotic supplements are another great way to inject a bit more bacteria into your diet. Just be sure that the packaging of the supplement indicates that the bacteria will be live at expiration, rather than simply live at manufacture. Some labels may indicate that the supplements are heat-stable or stomach acid resistant, which means they’re able to reach the large intestine intact. Keep these supplements in a cool, dark and dry location to promote the stability of the bacteria inside.

  1. Support with prebiotics.

Think of prebiotics as food for bacteria. And bacteria love fiber. Boosting the diet with soluble fiber from sources such as chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp fiber, sprouted grains and organic fruits and vegetables will give these microbes lots to munch on.

  1. Reduce sugar intake.

As good bacteria need soluble fiber to survive, bad bacteria feast on sugar. Eliminate or minimize refined sugar in the diet to minimize unhealthy yeast in the digestive tract.

  1. Diversify.

According to the American Gut Project, eating a wide variety of plant foods and soluble fiber is linked with a greater diversity of gut bacteria. Essentially, different bacteria prefer different foods, so the more diverse the diet, the more diverse the bacteria in the gut. And when it comes to bacteria, the more diverse the merrier. Ideally, aiming for 25 to 35 different species of plant foods can change the diversity of the microbiome within days. Bonus points for organic plants: Soil that clings to garden-fresh food is teeming with beneficial microbes.

 

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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FAQs

Your gut comprises about 70% of your immune system and is critical for brain function, to balance body chemistry, and for converting nutrients into a usable form the body can absorb. When your microflora (gut bacteria) is imbalanced, your health suffers. Probiotics are important for replenishing and restoring microfloral balance.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are believed to be good for overall health, and specifically for digestive health. To help alleviate the symptoms and conditions that harmful bacteria can cause, we need to maintain our beneficial bacteria. Known as ‘friendly’ or beneficial bacteria, probiotics produce a variety of compounds, including natural lactic acids that help to inhibit the growth of the harmful bacteria, thereby preventing them from gaining a foothold and causing illness. Probiotics can be found naturally in some foods, in fermented drinks, and in supplements.

Check the product and its strains for specifics but generally speaking, yes!  Probiotics are safe, effective and often recommended for children due to their role in supporting the immune system, addressing skin issues and easing digestive woes associated with antibiotic usage.

It’s easy to assume that you only need to take probiotics when you’re feeling out of balance (i.e. when you’re overly stressed, you’ve just finished a round of antibiotics or you’re feeling run down). However, we recommend daily probiotic and prebiotic supplementation (and loading up on probiotic-rich foods) in order to keep your gut bacteria healthy ahead of any issues that arise and to support long-term health overall.

Want to get the most out of your supplement? Some research shows that probiotic survival was best when taken 30 minutes before or with foods or beverages that had fat content. The time of day isn’t as relevant as making sure you’re consuming your probiotic supplement with food.

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