Microbiome. It’s a word that has seen a great deal of press coverage of late, for good reason. Your microbiome is the collection of bacteria living on and within your body. Hundreds of species, and billions of individual bacterial cells make it up. These normal microbiota in your body are essential to your health.
Many of them you simply cannot live without. Your gut flora process food in your gut, transferring nutrients to your bloodstream. Some boost your immune system by acting as the first line of defense against infection.
Your Microbiome Profile Is Unique
Your microbiome is unique: a combination of diet, environment, and genetics. Although these bacteria are essentially alien to your body, how your body processes food, how it handles changes in blood sugar levels, and even your work environment affects these microflora, causing some to thrive and others to fail. In fact, your personal bacterial environment is so specific to you that researchers have begun to look at microbiome analysis as a possible forensic tool.
We leave not only traces of our own DNA in the world around us, but traces of the bacteria we carry as well. Our clothing, devices, everything we interact with may carry traces of these. While microbiome analysis is not as accurate as fingerprinting, it is still extremely valuable to law enforcement.
Your Microbiota And You
What makes up your microbiome? Bacteria, living in your gut and even on your skin. We shed these bacteria as readily as we shed flakes of skin in a continuous cycle. Your microbiome can tell scientists a lot about you. It’s been linked to arthritis and obesity, Your microbiome affects inflammation in your body, which affects joints and internal organs. Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York conducted an ingenious experiment with mice to see how gut bacteria can influence inflammation. The bacteria Bifidobacterium Pseudolongum is known to reduce inflammation when found healthy numbers in the gut microbiome.
Rather than adding this bacteria to the guts of their mice subjects, Rochester’s researchers fed them a diet high in a fiber that is indigestible to the mice, but which the bacteria love. This fiber, oligofructose, led to significant increases in the population of this bacteria in the mice intestinal tracts. The researchers quickly noticed that molecules known to drive inflammation fell in number – dramatically.
The microbiome is linked not only physical conditions like arthritis, skin health, migraines and chronic fatigue. It influences our mental health as well. Changes in gut bacteria can modify affect mood. Those inflammatory marker molecules? They are present in much higher numbers than usual in people suffering from depression.
Working With Your Microbiome
The bacteria living on you and in you are on your side. A proper diet including a varied and large quantity of fruit and vegetables helps tune your gut bacteria in your favor. Include a probiotic in your diet. You can add this to smoothies for a double hit of probiotic and fruit. Also, add fermented foods such as kombucha or sauerkraut to your diet.
And of course, get plenty of fiber. Even the indigestible kind can be enormously beneficial, feeding bacteria that may help reduce inflammation and prevent a host of illnesses and debilitating conditions, while keeping your microbiome healthy. Did you know we run a Gut Health Centre right here in our Hong Kong practice?