The condition of the human gut and digestive system is critical for overall health. The beneficial microbes living in the gut and also in the skin and the oral cavity form what is called a microbiome. This term roughly translates to “miniature living world.” The friendly bacteria in the gut help break down food, produce energy, manufacture vitamins, defend against disease, aid the immune system and keep the harmful bacteria that may also be present in check. Many people would be surprised to learn that the human body carries within it and on it such a vast number of bacteria that all together they would weigh between three and five pounds! This article will focus on the microbiome of the intestines and discuss what to take for gut health.
Your gut does much more than just process the food you eat. In fact, the brain and the gut are in frequent communication with each other. The microbiome produces about 90 percent of the body’s serotonin, a critical neurotransmitter associated with normal mood and happiness. People with low serotonin levels may experience clinical depression. No one has the same microbiome. Each person’s is unique. Babies are born with almost no microbiome at all. During their first seven years of life, they too develop their own individual microbiome. Did you know that scientists can examine the microbes from a particular microbiome and from that, predict with 90 percent accuracy if the individual is normal weight or overweight? This amazing fact is true! It illustrates just how important it is to support your microbiome properly by eating the right foods and understanding how prebiotics and probiotics can nourish the microbiome and lead to vibrant health.
Antibiotics are devastating for the microbiome. Antibiotics save lives and are definitely necessary in some cases, but Americans take way too much of them. Many people fail to understand that antibiotics are useless against a virus. Taking them for a cold or the flu does nothing but encourage pathogens in your body to get stronger. This occurs when antibiotics kill the weakest pathogens but not the strongest ones. These strong ones survive and go on to pass these new antibiotic resistance genes to their offspring. This is how a superbug immune to all or most known antibiotics is born. Avoid antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Although the two terms sound similar, they are actually two different things. A prebiotic serves as food for the probiotics. This food is typically a type of fiber found in certain foods:
Prebiotics are also available in supplement form.
Probiotics are the good and beneficial bacteria found in certain fermented foods like kefir and yogurt. Kefir is like yogurt, but it’s more of a liquid and is usually consumed as a drink. Both contain friendly bacteria, such as lactobulgaricus and lactobacillus acidophilus. These bacteria feed on the prebiotics and then perform various functions in the microbiome:
- They aid in digestion
- They may prevent diarrhea and constipation
- They may help to relieve irritable bowel symptoms
- They may boost the immune system
- They may prevent overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens
These friendly probiotic bacteria are present in a number of foods:
- Miso and tempeh
- Aged cheeses
- Sourdough bread
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
- Wine and beer
- Buttermilk, yogurt and kefir
Miso and tempeh are both fermented soy products. Kimchi is the Korean version of sauerkraut. The traditional Korean dish is prepared by packing cabbage into earthen pots, which are then buried in the ground and allowed to ferment.
Probiotics are also available as a supplement in tablets, capsules and small bottles of concentrated liquid. However, it’s not enough to simply take a probiotic supplement. It’s best to get them from foods, and you must also be eating a healthy diet low in processed foods and refined sugar. Sugar is a destructive, inflammatory substance that disrupts the normal functioning of the microbiome, leading to bacterial imbalance and possible inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s.
For More Information
Let our professional medical staff answer your questions about the microbiome and what you can do to boost your health by taking care of your microbiome. Just call us during normal business hours at 205-352-9141. A trained staff member will assist you and if you like, set an appointment for you to see one of our physicians. We offer a wide range of health support treatments. We look forward to your call.