Wellness Wednesday Week 8-Support Microbiome

Genome.gov defines a microbiome as “the community of microorganisms (such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses) that exist in a particular environment… These groups of microorganisms are dynamic and change in response to a host of environmental factors, such as exercise, diet, medication, and other exposures.”

Most people are familiar with the gut microbiome, but microbiomes also exist for the skin, mouth, genitourinary tract, and other areas of the body, and they are all sensitive to the health decisions we make on a daily basis. 

There are trillions of microbes in the body that actually outnumber the amount of human cells that exist. These microbes generally live in harmony with the body and there is extensive research in progress on the role they play in our health. 

A healthy microbiome helps to protect the body from overgrowth of dangerous pathogens, optimize immune function, regulate inflammation, aid indigestion, balance hormones and neurotransmitters, and reduce the risk of cavities. Unfortunately, modern living, including diet and lifestyle factors, medications, and environmental toxins, have disrupted microbial activity and interferes with the proper function of our microbiome. The prevalence of chronic disease is a testimony to this.

So what can you do to support your microbiome?

-Limit the use of antimicrobial agents. Use of antibiotics and antifungals, for instance, don’t only “kill” the dangerous organisms. Healthy organisms are also affected and this will cause an imbalance of the microbiome, often allowing harmful pathogens to overgrow. Use antimicrobials only when absolutely necessary.

-Avoid/limit environmental toxins. Household cleaners, pesticides, and cosmetic products can be harmful to the microbiomes in the body.

-Avoid/limit processed foods. Processed seed oils, such as corn, canola, vegetable, soybean, etc., and artificial sweeteners are terrible for the health of the microbiome.

-Eat real, whole foods! This will give the body what it needs to functioning optimally, which will also facilitate the optimal functioning of the microbiomes. Whole foods can also supply pre-biotics, which are fibers that help feed the gut microbiome.

-Eat probiotic rich foods. High quality yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, sourdough, and cheeses can help to re-populate and balance the microbiome. Try to include a variety of sources so you aren’t worsening or creating an imbalance.

-Consider probiotic supplements. If you are able to include a variety of probiotic rich foods, then supplements are unnecessary. I’m not affiliated with any specific company but Align, VSL #3, and Florastor are often recommended in our GI practice.

-Manage chronic health conditions. If you are chronically ill, your microbiome will be also. Treat the body as a whole system, not just the “areas of disease.”

-Follow the other Wellness Wednesday recommendations to help improve the condition of the microbiome. Good sleep, managing stress, getting outdoors, and staying active are all important for the proper function of your microbiome.

You can provide a significant boost to your health and well-being by targeting the health of the microbiome. Let’s work on that this week.

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