It’s getting harder and harder to deny that bacteria is our friend.
Sure, there are some species that can wreak havoc on our bodies, but it seems that there are many more that would rather live symbiotically with us.
Researchers have discovered that between 500 and 1000 unique species of bacteria comprise our gut flora—also know as our microbiome. And an increasing number of studies demonstrate a surprising fact: these little critters are absolutely essential to our well-being.
This is a pretty ironic discovery, given allopathic medicine’s crusade on microorganisms. It appears that waging war on “germs” and living in sterile conditions are not sustainable practices.
It appears that, if we wish to live optimally, we’re going to have to deepen our understanding of the relationship between humans and bacteria.
Your multi-talented microbiome
Digestive microbiology is a field that could revolutionize the way we view health and healing within the next five to ten years.
Our gut flora play an essential role in a staggering number of bodily processes, and many researchers believe they hold the key to understanding many prevalent health conditions.
Here’s just a selection of the virtues of a healthy microbiome…
It supplies nutrients by aiding in the digestion process. Your gut bacteria is able to break down certain food components that your stomach can’t take care of on its own, like fiber. These flora convert their food into all sorts of beneficial nutrients, like amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and short-chain fatty acids.
It regulates appetite and digestion not only by aiding with physical processes, but also by producing neurotransmitters (like serotonin) that affect us neurologically. Studies show that certain species of bacteria can manipulate the neurohormones, neurotransmitters, and receptors that control appetite.
It improves insulin sensitivity. Many researchers even think that the health of an individual’s microbiome is correlated with their likelihood of developing diabetes.
It boosts immune function by outcompeting harmful bacteria and pathogens. There also seems to be a more complex, little understood mechanism at work. While scientists are not yet sure what it is, they believe it explains why there seem to be more autoimmune diseases in developed nations with antibiotics and sterilization practices (which are your microbiome’s worst nightmare).
When they’re not happy, you pay the price…
Just by familiarizing yourself with these benefits, you can probably figure out what happens when our gut flora is out of whack.
Quite simply, we get sick and fat.
Nutrient deficiency and immune dysfunction are leading causes of illness and degenerative disease, and insulin sensitivity and digestion dysfunction are a recipe for obesity and diabetes if there ever was one.
In studies of genetically identical twins, obese and diabetic individuals were found to have a significantly less diverse microbiome. Similarly, individuals with stronger immune systems (who reported getting sick less often) also had thriving microbiomes.
It’s becoming clear that gut flora health is as important as diet and lifestyle when it comes to staying healthy and fit.
So how can we support our microbiome?
We still know very little about the mysterious and complex workings of our internal flora. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of steps that you can take to help them along their way (so that they can help you).
An important first step is to learn as much as you can about your specific microbiome.
In order to know what steps are best for each of us to take, we need to get a snapshot of our current gut flora. Otherwise, it will be difficult to tell whether your actions are yielding positive results.
Remember: there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to optimal health. It’s all a matter of taking health into your own hands, learning what works for you, and applying this knowledge in your daily life.
A company called uBiome makes it incredibly easy to get up close and personal with your microbiome.
They’ll mail you a kit with detailed instructions on how to send a biological sample back to them. Then they use state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology to analyze your flora in glorious and meticulous detail. Lastly, they help you apply the resulting information by cross-referencing data (so that you know what microbiotic issues you need to take care of).
Pretty neat, huh? You can order a kit here.
And while you’re waiting to receive your results, the usual healthy-bacteria-promoting practices apply…
Avoid antibiotics, avoid conventional meat and dairy, stop using antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, stop drinking tap water, avoid chlorine-washed vegetables, take prebiotics and probiotics, and make your own probiotic-rich fermented foods at home.
By combining these practices with the personalized data that you receive from uBiome, you’ll be able to supercharge your microbiome…and it will thank you by doing its part to ensure that you stay vibrantly healthy.