Table of Contents
Chapter # 1: How much do you know about your Microbiome?
Chapter # 2: Why am I losing my Microbiome?
Chapter # 3: My Microbiome is out of Whack. What do I do now?
We are so preoccupied with our hectic routines that we fail to focus on our health and well-being. The worst case scenario is when you feel more out of sorts than usual and visit your doctor for occasional blood tests that hint at a vitamin D deficiency or a high cholesterol level. The problem, however, has a cause that is more deep-rooted than your blood.
Your parents might have once told you that you’re special and different from the rest, turns out they’re right! Every one of us has an individually unique microbial ecosystem both inside and on us that is home to more than 100 trillion microbes, responsible for keeping our Microbiome in balance. If you’ve ever experienced an unexplained pain or discomfort in your gut, or if you feel relentlessly tired regardless of getting an appropriate amount of sleep and rest, you ought to keep reading. Your Microbiome might be unbalanced!
How much do you know about your Microbiome?
A little something about Microbiomes
The number of microbes throughout your body outnumbers the number of cells you contain by 10 to 1. Microbes, otherwise known as microscopic organisms, is a term used to generalize a number of different types of life forms that are relatively too minuscule to view without the use of a microscope. Some microbes that you may be familiar with are bacteria, fungi, and viruses, all of which are inhabitants of your body.
Let’s divide microbes into two simpler groups: the good microbes and the bad ones. A significant amount of good microbes is situated in your gut where they support your immune system, protect you from various diseases, detoxify your body, and even assist in the maintenance of your weight. The bacteria accountable for maintaining the health of our gut are known as probiotics. A comparative amount of bad bacteria, or microbes, also inhabit our gut that account for a myriad of chronic diseases, inflammation, and obesity. The choices we make in our daily lives have influential effects on our Microbiome and can throw it out of balance.
So how exactly does your Microbiome come to be in the first place? Apparently, fetus’ gastrointestinal tract is a nearly sterile place and the gut microbiota doesn’t completely form until after your birth. The Gut Microbiota Worldwatch stated that the digestive tract of a newborn rapidly colonizes with microorganisms from the mother and its surrounding environment. For example, the gut microbiota of a child who has been breastfed would differ from one who was fed with a formula. In fact, newborns who are exposed to different environments have a more diversified Microbiome are less likely to suffer from allergies and sensitivities to different types of foods like eggs, milk, and peanuts.
Each individual’s Microbiome is essential for their external and internal physical condition. Your gut’s Microbiome is one of the most imperative features of your body that could either make you or break you. The presence of over 2 kilograms of microbes and over 1000 species of bacteria renders a diversified gut Microbiome.
Our stomach and small intestine at times have trouble digesting whatever we consume, this is where microbes jump in and aid in the digestion process providing our bodies with the nutrients we need. An imbalance in the gut ecosystem can lead to indigestion and obesity, both of which, are major healthcare issues being discussed as of recently. A research study conducted by Jones et al. 2012 at the McGill University, showed that using a probiotic supplement containing L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 caused significant reduction in total as well as harmful fractions of cholesterol.
The microbes in your gut supply your body with vitamins like vitamin B and K. In another study conducted by Jones et al. 2013 at the University of McGill Canada, researchers found that in contrast to a placebo, a L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 based probiotic was capable of increasing the blood levels of vitamin D by 22.4%. These vitamins are fundamental to a properly functioning immune system. Your immune system, when vulnerable or compromised, can further disrupt the balance of the gut Microbiome by making it more susceptible to bad microbes or bacteria.
We previously discussed the influence of a more diverse Microbiome in newborns on different types of food allergies. Being low in diversity, the Microbiome can have long-term effects on a child’s development advancing into adulthood. Just the same, a Microbiome overpopulated with certain types of bacteria can wreak havoc on the balance of your Microbiome as well. Let’s figure out what’s going on in your Microbiome and exclude all factors that are causing chaos!
There are multiple factors that partake in the destruction of your Microbiome. Although a stool analysis can be used to determine whether your gut harbors a healthy microbiota, there are some simple signs you can look out for by asserting your current health condition to deduce the composition of the microbial community in your gut.
Factors that can wreak havoc on your microbiota health include:
Multiple cravings for sugar and highly processed foods
It’s relatively normal for you to crave something sweet following an extensive day at work or school, especially if you missed a meal. Our bodies are automatically programmed into craving sweets when blood sugar levels decline. Though, when you begin to desire ice-cream and doughnuts on a full stomach, taking precautions and keeping track of what you consume is advised.
Recent studies have shown that the microbes found in your gut can exert a strong effect on our dietary preferences and modify our appetites. Let’s say you’re an individual with a sweet tooth and consume more than necessary sugary substances than needed. This surplus intake of refined sugars leads to the development of pro-inflammatory microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract. These microbes further produce compounds that create additional cravings due to the dependence of their survival on these food types.
- Food Intolerance
With a well-developed and diversified Microbiome, you shouldn’t have a problem digesting any of the foods you consume. However, if your Microbiome is poorly matched to your dietary intake, food intolerance ensues. For instance, if you’re raised consuming a vegetarian or vegan diet and decide to switch to a more carnivorous diet into adulthood, your gut would have trouble processing the food due to the lack of microbes that assist in its digestion. Factors like food intolerance contribute to gastrointestinal distress as well as a leaky gut.
Recent evidence has shown that chronic depression can, in some cases, be related to an inflammatory disorder. The microbes residing in our gut have a sizable effect on our brain function and mental health. For example, while healthy gut bacteria can promote anti-depressive effects, other more hazardous microbes assist in inducing anxiety or depression.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other Gastrointestinal Issues
Gastrointestinal issues are usually related to a poor diet, allergies, and stress, and despite that, don’t really offer a vast inventory of cures or remedies. That’s because the problem lies deeper than just the dietary lack of fiber or your irritating boss ─ and can be more accurately attributed to an imbalanced gut Microbiome that lacks diversity and resilience. Gastrointestinal issues present with;
- Bad Breath
- Loose Stools
If you find yourself experiencing one or more of the above signs, chances are that your Microbiome is out of whack to some extent. Wondering how it got so serious? Here are 5 habits to avoid that can wreck your Microbiome Health.
Over the counter drugs and medicines have become pretentious solutions for ordinary ailments. It may seem like a smart financial move to avoid all those reoccurring trips to the doctor and just get yourself or your kids some antibiotics from the nearest pharmacy.
The intake of antibiotics is probably the most destructive thing you could do to your Microbiome. You have to consider that your bodies consist of both bad bacteria and probiotics. Antibiotics not only wipe out the bad bacteria from your system but also end up significantly diminishing the probiotics that are crucial to your digestion, immune system, and so much more. The use of antibiotics has to be cautious until specifically indicated. Moreover, the re-indulgence of good bacteria, or probiotics, is often forgotten by after relief from their ailment.
Chlorinated Drinking Water
The use of chlorinated drinking water is detrimental to the friendly gut microbes. This is due to chlorine’s ability to kill off any bacteria that come in its way.
Altered Fats used in Food products
Our body requires fats for the production and maintenance of cell walls. The fats that we consume in our diet form a sort of impermeable protective layer on our cells that prevents toxins and pathogens from entering into our bloodstream. Fast foods contain altered fats that render the cell walls more permeable allowing the invasion of harmful agents susceptible into our system. The original cell walls made from authentic fats are actually the dwelling area for most protective microorganisms that flourish in our bodies. Think of it this way, a weak or broken cell wall is like a broken sewage pipe that ends up leaking into your system and contaminates everything it comes in contact with.
Increased Consumption of Carbohydrates
We already discussed the negative impact of a high sugar intake on your Microbiomes. The surplus intake of foods high in carbohydrates can also lead to a drastic imbalance in the microbial system. This is because the bad bacteria feed on carbohydrates and sugars to thrive and flourish.. Focusing on a more Asian dietary pattern and saying good riddance to the standard Western diet is an ideal way to help minimize the consumption of carbohydrates.
Recent studies suggest that red squirrels which reside in a low-stress environment contain a considerably healthy Microbiome. Researchers tested the squirrel’s Microbiomes as well as their stress hormones and the results depicted that the squirrels with higher stress levels ended up presenting less bacterial diversity, which is considered an indicator of poor Microbiome health. A later study revealed that enhanced stress levels in the squirrels were secondary to the increased levels of potentially harmful bacteria. So it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t hurt to lay back and relax a little!
My Microbiome is out of Whack. What do I do Now?
There’s no need to fret if you believe that your Microbiome isn’t functioning the way it should. Luckily, getting your Microbiome back on track is moderately easy and can be done in the comfort of your home without constant trips to the doctor. Follow these five easy steps to safeguard the condition of your Microbiome!
Given that the majority of beneficial microbes are situated in your gut, it’s vital to keep a check on what is being put into it. Chances are your Microbiome is out of whack due to what you were consuming in the first place.
One of the mandatory additions in your diet to fix the topsy-turvy mess in your gut is fiber. Research has shown that most individuals living in the western hemisphere lack the consumption of dietary fiber by approximately 50%. This is something nutritionists signify as the “fiber gap.” Fiber is an essential nutritional provider for the bacteria that reside in your gut and the deficiency of this substance can lead to the depletion of some microbes in your gut reducing the diversity of your Microbiome.
Go ahead and try out Fermented Plant-based foods like tempeh and miso. These fermented foods are in demand due to their ability to restore the healthy microorganisms in your gut, which then outnumber the unhealthy bacteria and microbes.
Indulging fermented plant-based foods has colossal benefits. These foods are rich in probiotics, boosting the body’s overall Microbiome, which improves the health of the intestinal cells, immune function, and alleviates allergies.
We’re already aware that probiotics are necessarily the “good” bacteria in our body. Although, what makes them different from the other microbes or bacteria?
Probiotics have been more successful in the treatment of gastrointestinal issues. Controlled trials have shown that supplementation with Lactobacillus reuteri species can reduce the frequency of diarrhea by 50% in adults. Similar results were seen in children too. Moreover, enriching the gut microbiota with Lactobacillus reuteri species can have benefits like improved intestinal microbiota and enhanced insulin sensitivity.
To get the most out of the probiotics you use, it’s recommended to pair your probiotic with a prebiotic supplement. So what’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Turns out, prebiotics act as food for the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut.
For example, Microbiome Plus+ Gastrointestinal is a dietary supplement containing Lactobacillus reuteri NCMIB 30242 used in recent successful studies to help rebalance the healthy bacteria in your gut and provide support in normal digestive functions. This dietary supplement is an amazing blend of probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri NCMIB 30242) and prebiotic fiber. This blend assures the maintenance of a healthy gut that is in its best shape!
Other than probiotics and prebiotic powders, there’s a range of beneficial supplements you can consume to re-balance your Microbiome.
Magnesium is a crucial substance required by enzymes to enhance and maintain function in the gut. On an average, you should consume approximately 320-420 mg of magnesium daily, and usually, that amount of magnesium isn’t available in our diets. Magnesium supplements help fill that void and improve your immune health and aid the body by converting insulin into energy. Some good natural sources of magnesium are:
- Yogurt or Kefir
Fish oil is mainly used for the prevention of inflammation and is recommended to pregnant women due to its potential to promote brain development. This oil loaded with omega-3 fatty acids modifies the gut microbiota along with its anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting properties, and therefore offers a host of benefits for our Microbiome.
A recent study showed that combined with probiotics, fish oil assists in the probiotic’s survival in the gut regardless of the presence of bad bacteria.
One of the amplest natural amino acids in your body is L-Glutamine. They assist in fueling white blood cells, which in turn benefits your immune system. Intake of L-glutamine can help enhance our gut Microbiome by reducing gut permeability; thus, healing and protecting the intestinal wall.
As you can tell, a balanced dietary lifestyle is crucial for the well-being of your Microbiome and can be done without the help of a nutritionist or doctor. Nonetheless, there are other factors that can destroy your Microbiome regardless of whether or not you follow a constant, healthy, diet.
First things first, put down that cigarette! The dangers of smoking are countless and can have a large impact on your gut Microbiome. Smoking amplifies the amount of Bacteroides-Prevotella in healthy individuals putting them at a risk for Crohn’s Disease.
Incorporate a regulated sleeping pattern into your lifestyle. Getting 7-8 hours of deep, restful sleep helps relax your body and regulates your metabolism.
Breathing and Meditation:
We’ve already discussed that stress plays a major role in disrupting the balance of your Microbiome. Regular breathing exercises every morning can help calm both the mind and muscles, preparing you for a stress-free day.
Try meditating or practicing some yoga poses to help further regulate your breathing pattern and reduce stress. Even 10-15 minutes of meditation would suffice as a great start to your day.
Lack of exercise fuels the growth of unfriendly bacteria. On the contrary, exercise assists in burning off bad microbes you may have consumed and keeps track of your Microbiome health.
Exercise is also a superb way to blow off all that pent up steam that had you stressed out all day.
So you’ve changed your diet, altered your lifestyle, and have incorporated relaxing therapies into your days, now what?
One of the greatest aspects of rebalancing your Microbiome is that it occurs rather quickly. Within the first 24 hours of healthy eating and taking the supplements you need, your body is introduced to a wide range of probiotics and starts to balance itself based on what it’s receiving.
Other than feeling less tired and being more productive throughout the day, other easy methods can be used to deduce whether or not your Microbiome is on the right track.
- Check your stool on a daily basis. If the makeup of your stool has changed to resemble a sausage or tiny blobs, it’s safe to say that you’re on your way to a healthier Microbiome.
- Your autoimmune flare-ups and acne calm down a bit once your gut Microbiome starts to regain balance.
- Check your weight! If you’ve shed a few pounds in the first week of your new diet plan, you’re good to go.
Currently, many adults experience the effects of having an unbalanced Microbiome and are oblivious to the cause. Changing your diet and lifestyle can be imperatively tricky and somewhat hard granting you’ve been following that certain way of life for a while. Simply focusing on eating home-cooked meals, exercising, and even investing in occasional visits to the spa, can make a great difference and above all, if you still experience trouble, you know exactly which supplements to reach out to speed up your ride to a healthy gut Microbiome.