Did you know we have 100 trillion bacteria in our gut? It’s true. There are over 10,000 species of these little critters…some of them transient nomads and some permanent residents. It's not an area most of us spend much time dwelling on, but our Microbiome (bacteria that inhabit all of the 30-odd feet of your gastrointestinal plumbing) supports every conceivable aspect of our health. It is an organ in and of itself and determines if we live robustly to a ripe old age.
First, let’s examine all the good things that these bacteria do for us?
(1). Aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients
(2). Create a physical barrier against potential invaders
(3). Act as a detoxification machine preventing infection
(4). Influences our immune system (80% of our immune system is in the gut)
(5). Produce vitamins (B12) and neurotransmitters (serotonin)
(6). Helps fight inflammation
Clearly, we don't want our gut overrun by unfriendly bacteria. We want the good guys....diverse and beneficial bacteria, such as those from the genera Bifido-bacterium and Lactobacillus spending their days destroying their harmful cousins, picking through undigested leftovers and micromanaging calories. Good bacteria also act as microscopic bouncers for the bowels, waving in desirable nutrients and slamming the door on dangerous viruses and killer bugs.
What forces can derail our Microbiome?
(1). Exposure to chemicals in food, such as gluten and sugar.
(2). Drugs, like antibiotics.
(2). Poor nutrition (low fiber, low healthy fats, high sugar)
(3). Stress and inflammation
You see, anything that interferes with the integrity of our intestinal wall creates havoc. Have you heard of the “leaky gut syndrome”? Our intestinal lining is only one cellular layer of thickness. When that tight junction becomes permeable, the gatekeepers can no longer protect us and bacterial pathogens, undigested proteins, and lipopolysaccharides (LPS) gain entrance into our circulation, potentially leading to a firestorm of inflammatory diseases:
(2). Inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
(3). Asthma, eczema, food allergies
(4). Celiac disease
(5). Alzheimer's and cognitive impairment
(6). Mood disorders, more commonly, anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue
(7). Autoimmune disease
So how do we keep our gut happy and functioning properly?
Here are 5 tips to improve your Microbiome in 2017:
(1). Probiotics: live good bacteria found in fermented foods
(2). Prebiotics: non-digestible fiber that act as food or fuel for the good bacteria
• Acacia gum
• Chicory root
• Jerusalem artichoke
• Dandelion greens
(3). Foods that low-carbohydrate and contain high quality fats
(4). Polyphenols: powerful antioxidants found in:
• black and green tea
• red wine
• dark chocolate
(5). Intermittent fasting (google it)
Remember, a healthy gut leads to a healthier, more productive and longer life. Make a resolution to treat those good bacteria well and they will return the favor a thousand fold.