By Sam Botica, Naturopath
The Human Microbiome, is the sum of all bugs (bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa) and the genes they harbour, which live on our skin, in our orifices and throughout our body. Most of them live in the gut.
When our microbiome is balanced, we stay healthy, with good energy and mood. When it’s unbalanced, we’re more likely to gain weight, develop diabetes, asthma, allergies, mood disorders, autoimmunity and even heart disease.
We have between ten to one hundred trillion microbial cells – in a sense, we are more microbe than human. There are both good and bad bugs; some cause disease, but many are essential for good health, because they help digest our food, strengthen our immune systems and fight off nasty bugs. Our microbiome makes up around seventy five per cent of our immune system and it influences not only immunity, but also nutrition, behaviour and disease.
Our physical and mental health is affected by our gut bugs (microbiome). They control the entire health of our bodies. The gut has even been called “the second brain”. If a pathogen crosses our gut lining, histamine is triggered by our immune cells, which is detected by nerves controlling our organs. The gut/brain then triggers diarrhoea and/or vomiting. This same mechanism is also how food affects our mood.
Poor gut health can lead to ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and autoimmunity. We know that destroying the gut flora with pharmaceutical drugs, harsh environmental chemicals and junk food, play a big part in disease. Just one course of antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome for a year. Refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods contribute to a leaky gut. This means that food particles cross the gut lining, enter the blood stream, where the immune system attacks them and our tissues as well. Inflammation is set up, and that leads to a whole range of diseases.
We get our microbiome from our environment at birth and as we grow and change, our microbial makeup changes also. Two thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person and this is because of the food we eat and environmental factors. Diversity of our microbes is important, and because diet plays a big role, the more varied the diet, the better.
How to improve your Gut Microbiome
1. Remove sugar, genetically modified food (especially canola and corn)
2. Get your carbohydrates from leafy greens, garlic, onions, tumeric, ancient grains and legumes
3. Healthy fats: coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds
4. Fermented foods: kimchi, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut
5. Good quality protein: wild caught fish, grass fed, pasture raised meat
6. Check for food intolerances
7. Use good quality probiotics
8. Plenty of rest, and regular exercise
If you need help with identifying food intolerances or stool analysis, I can help you with these.