When I say the word “bacteria,” what comes to mind?
For most people, the thought of bacteria conjures images of sickness, disease, and decay. And while that isn’t necessarily incorrect, it also isn’t entirely true.
Yes: Bacteria has a role to play in sickness. But what many people don’t know is that bacteria also play a vital role in our health and well-being. Let’s get a little perspective.
At any given point, your body carries an average of three pounds of microbes. Or, put another way, that’s tens of trillions of microorganisms calling your body home. Your body has, in fact, been taken over by alien invaders.
These bacterial cells actually outnumber your native human cells ten-to-one.
All of that to say: At the end of the day, you’re more bacteria than you are human.
Don’t freak out just yet.
In the gut alone—the epicenter of physical and mental health—is home to over 1,000 species of unique bacteria with over 3 million genes. As a collective whole, these species of bacteria—both good and bad—are what we call the gut microbiota.
What is the Gut Microbiota, and What Does it Do?
To understand the intricacies of the gut microbiota, we need to zoom out a little.
Your body is made up of a number of different microbiotas—such as your skin microbiota or oral microbiota—that all contribute to a greater whole: The human microbiome. Think of each individual microbiota as a mini-ecosystem within the greater ecosystem that is the human body.
Now, let’s zoom in: The gut microbiota makes up the majority of the human microbiome, and is comprised of all the microbes—or gut flora—living in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT), including …
- Viruses, and (in much smaller numbers)
- Archea, protozoa, helminths, and fungi.
Up to one-third of gut “composition” is standard, or common to most people, while a full two-thirds is specific to each person. So, in a way, your gut microbiota is as unique to you as your fingerprint.
The Gut Microbiota’s Role in Health and Well-Being
But, what do these trillions of microbes actually do? For a long time, their sole purpose was thought to be digestion. And while it is true that gut bacteria do in fact aid in digestion, limiting their abilities to breaking down food is a vast understatement.
Your gut flora is a key component to your overall health. For example: According to this study, the gut microbiota is thought to play a major role—either as the source of or solution to—a number of conditions, including …
- Irritable bowel syndrome,
- Celiac disease,
- Colorectal cancers.
And that’s not all. Yes, seriously. They do more.
Recent studies have also uncovered many other common ailments to be linked to gut health, but don’t take my word for it. Check out this article on all the common diseases linked to gut health.
When looking at positive versus negative effects of gut bacteria, it is all about balance, which gut bacteria are in control, and which are being dominated. Certain bacteria alone, when in high number can cause disease. But, what if there were good bacteria out there when, in high enough dosages, could cure anxiety? Or IBS? Or Diabetes?
You read that right. Probiotics are borderline superheroes.
How is the Gut Microbiome Formed?
Learning how the microbiome is shaped is key in figuring out best practices to keep our microbiomes in tip top shape and protect ourselves and future generations from the most common diseases linked to poor gut health.
Your gut and its microbiome go back to your birth. During pregnancy, before birth, a mother’s microbiome begins to prepare for the baby’s arrival. At this point, the health of the mother’s GI tract plays a vital role in the health of the baby.
The most dramatic work takes place in the birth canal where the cells of the vaginal wall actually are altered to create a happy place for Lactobacilli to multiply causing the environment to become acidic, protecting the baby from possible invaders and infection.
During a vaginal delivery, the baby’s nose and mouth are covered in a healthy dose of good bacteria. This brief exposure to bacteria during birth is critical in the development of the new baby’s immune system.
That is how the story of your microbiome begins!
Babies who are born vaginally are exposed and colonized by the bacteria of Lactobacillus genus. On the other hand, babies who are born via caesarian section are exposed to skin microbes such as Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus which, unfortunately, set the baby’s gut up for a not so great microbiome.
Want to dive a bit deeper into the world of the Microbiome? We highly recommend: The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out
How to Improve Your Gut Microbiota
The health of the microbiome begins at birth and is either strengthened or weakened in infancy through early childhood. The microbiome is ever changing and during the first couple of years of life, the microbiome changes at rapid speed, reaching adult patterns by the age of three.
Those first three years are pivotal to the child’s overall health as they head into adulthood. The birth they experience, the post-birth nourishment they receive, the stressors they are put through, and the foods they are exposed to at an early age all play a vital role in the development of their microbiome.
When it comes to the microbiome, there are many ways to go about healing the gut lining and rebalancing the bacteria calling your gut home. But, by far some of the best secrets to keeping the gut healthy are actually preventative measures – such as:
- Prescription drugs
- Refined sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined vegetable oils
- Fluoride, Chlorine, and other water toxins
But, there are tons of foods that are actually beneficial for your gut flora and aiding the restoration of balance within your gut – such as:
- Healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, nuts, ghee, and salmon)
- Bone Broth
- Fermented dairy (kefir and yogurt)
- Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sour kraut, and pickles)
- Omegas from plant-based supplements (these are a form of healthy fats)
- Alkaline, non-toxic water
- Anti-Fingal’s such as grapefruit and grape seed extract
Start adding more of these healthy options to your daily meals and start removing some of the toxic products and additives from your diet and begin to feel the incredible power of a healthy and strong gut.
A Fresh Perspective on Bacteria and the Microbiome
Now that you know how important the microbiome is to your overall health, how do you feel about the word, “bacteria”?
Even though the microbiome is still essentially a whole bunch of bugs that have taken over your body, it’s not so scary, is it?
The ecosystem in the gut can either be helping or harming us, healing or diseasing us. But, now you have the knowledge to take full control of your health.
When you take the time to think about how your microbiome is functioning, you can drastically change the future of your health.
Creating lasting change can seem daunting at first. Learning about gut health and how to heal the gut lining is not always as simple as eating more veggies. So, as always, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
If you want to schedule a one on one consultation, we would be honored to help you reach your health goals. Just follow this link.
Wishing you the best health and the most happiness
I want to hear from you! What amazing things did you learn about the microbiome? How will you use this knowledge to better your health?