There’s a garden growing inside you. Each of us are home to millions of tiny microorganisms that help us digest our food, protect us from disease and perform many other functions essential for life and good health. We call this garden your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome and our health are directly related to each other. Recent research has revealed just how important the gut microbiome is, and how important it is to keep it healthy and thriving for overall wellness.
What is the gut microbiome?
The human gut microbiome is a combination of bacteria, viruses, microbes, and archaea, all of which live within our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In healthy adults, each of us typically have over 1000 species of bacteria in our gut, but the composition is unique from person to person.1 Most of these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with their host, meaning that both the human and the microbe benefit from their presence. In some cases, some of these microbes can contribute to disease.
The development of our gut microbiome begins at birth and is influenced throughout our lives by various factors such as food, prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, drugs, and alcohol. Other non-dietary factors such as age, stress, lifestyle, and sex can also play a role in the composition of the gut microbiota.1 When large changes happen to the microbiome composition, this can cause an imbalance in the gut and contribute to various diseases.
The microbiome and health
The gut microbiome is a key player in our health and is now widely considered an essential organ of the human body.2 Numerous diseases are now believed to be influenced by the gut microbiome. Metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity have been connected to gut imbalances, as gut microbiota help regulate metabolic processes.2 Those with eczema and other allergic diseases have been shown to have lower microbiome diversity than healthy individuals. Even cardiovascular disease, one of the largest killers in the United States, has been shown to have a link to the gut microbiome, demonstrating that gut composition is associated with increased rates of hypertension and illnesses of the heart and circulatory system.2
Rebuilding the gut microbiome
There have been several approaches developed to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Currently the best strategies include a healthy diet, probiotics, and prebiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that replace the disease-causing bacteria and help restore a properly balanced gut microbiome.3 These can be provided through supplements or with probiotic rich foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, and kimchi. Prebiotics are indigestible fiber that feed the probiotic bacteria within the gut, stimulating the growth of good bacteria3. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as chicory root, dandelion greens, ginger, garlic, onions, and oats.
Diet has an immediate impact on your microbiome composition. The typical Western diet is characterized by a high intake of fats, carbohydrates, animal proteins, and simple sugars. Western diets have been associated with less microbiome diversity when compared to more traditional diets such as the Mediterranean diet, which are low in animal protein, and high in vegetable and fiber intake.4 Eating a healthy balanced diet is essential to keep a healthy and diverse gut microbiome.4
As you can see, a healthy gut can have a vast impact on your overall health. Just as a poorly tended garden in your yard can result in weeds and unhealthy plants, a diet rich in fatty foods and carbohydrates and low in fruits and vegetables can lead to an increase in disease and a decline in overall wellbeing. Keeping your internal garden healthy through simple lifestyle changes can lead to remarkable improvements in health, energy and freedom from disease. The connection between the gut microbiome and our health is one that might just address your health illnesses. So what are you waiting for?
- Gut Microbiome – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. Sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/gut-microbiome. Published 2020. Accessed October 11, 2020.
- Ding R, Goh W, Wu R et al. Revisit gut microbiota and its impact on human health and disease. J Food Drug Anal. 2019;27(3):623-631. doi:10.1016/j.jfda.2018.12.012
- Gagliardi A, Totino V, Cacciotti F et al. Rebuilding the Gut Microbiota Ecosystem. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(8):1679. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081679
- Garcia-Mantrana I, Selma-Royo M, Alcantara C, Collado M. Shifts on Gut Microbiota Associated to Mediterranean Diet Adherence and Specific Dietary Intakes on General Adult Population. Front Microbiol. 2018;9. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.00890