An Introduction To Your Micobiome
Whether we like it or not, we are playing host to thousands of species of microorganisms inside our digestive tract. Different species like to live in different areas of your digestive tract, so the bacteria growing in the first part of your small intestine won’t be the same as those living in your colon. These bacteria are collectively referred to as our gut microbiota and are also called probiotics because they have a positive impact on our health.
Bacteria live within your entire digestive tract from your mouth to your colon, and different types and numbers of bacteria live in different parts of your digestive tract. For example, our colon contains WAY more bacteria than our small intestine.
Just so you know, our guts are also inhabited by other microorganisms besides bacteria, like viruses, and single-cell eukaryotes (like yeast).
Your gut microbes help with the regulation of your metabolism and can even play a role in disease formation or prevention.
This means that focusing on improving the health of your microbiome can have a significant effect on how well your body uses glucose and fats as energy and prevent metabolic dysfunction.
Your gut bugs also play a role in synthesizing nutrients, controlling appetite, aiding in detoxification, and even affecting how well you sleep! Healthy bacteria in our gut help with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid hormone (T3), so improving gut function is one of the ways to improve thyroid health and metabolism.
One of the most important functions our gut bugs is to ferment dietary components (primarily fiber: non-digestible carbohydrates) inside the colon and produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are an energy source for the body, are essential for regulating our metabolism, and aid in the absorption of biologically important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron.
But, it doesn't stop there! Our gut bacteria also synthesize B vitamins and may play a key role in facilitating absorption of dietary fats, which means we better absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Clearly, these little guys are important!
How can we support the health of our microbiome?
Eating plenty of prebiotic foods (food that our gut bugs like to eat) can do wonders for an imbalanced microbiome. Some of these foods include cacao, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, oats, apples, burdock root, seaweed, and dandelion greens.
Nutrient deficiencies can cause dysbiosis in the gut because the bacteria that produce missing nutrients will overgrow to compensate for the nutrient deficiency. This means that correcting nutrient deficiencies can lead to a more balanced gut microbiome.
The cool thing about your microbiome is that it is constantly changing and adapting to your situation, so exposing your body to things like walking barefoot, having a picnic in the grass, inviting a new friend over for dinner, petting/cuddling with your pets (or someone else's pets), gardening, exercising, hiking, swimming in the ocean or a lake, picking flowers, etc. will continue to improve and diversify your microbiome.
Now, what about probiotic capsules?
To be honest, I really think that most probiotic capsules are a waste of money because, unfortunately, most probiotics won’t even make it through the stomach acid into the lower portion of the gut.
Plus, most probiotic capsules have nowhere near the amount of diversity in them needed for a healthy gut to effectively work with. (Also be aware that some probiotics have crazy bacteria strains that are not even found in our gut - like strains found on the outside on birds!)
Fermented foods do it WAY better!
I like to add a bit of fermented foods to my meals. I like kombucha, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi!
On that note, if your microbiome needs a serious tune-up, talk with your practitioner about a spore-based probiotic like Just Thrive. These probiotics are clinically proven to improve gut health and they are some of the only probiotics I feel comfortable taking myself and using with my clients.
In conclusion, love your gut bugs and they will love you back!