What is a Microbiome?
A microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, or microbiota. There are thousands of different specifies of microbiota, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Every human being has a completely unique microbiome determined by their DNA. Despite the differences in each microbiome, it is a supporting organ for each person because of the many key roles it plays in promoting one’s health and daily bodily functions.
Why You Should Care About Your Microbiome
The microbiome consists of microbiota throughout the entire body, from the gut to the skin, that are both helpful and potentially harmful. In a healthy person, the different types of microbiota coexist peacefully and are symbiotic with the host (the human). However, if there is a disturbance in the balance between the helpful and pathogenic microbiota, peaceful interactions stop, and the body is weakened and becomes more susceptible to disease. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the most common causes of imbalances are brought on by certain diets, infections, and overuse of antibiotics.
Tips for Keeping Your Microbiome Healthy
- Increase your daily fiber intake: Ubbelohde explains that fiber is a prebiotic because beneficial gut bacteria feeds on fibrous foods. By increasing your fiber, especially fiber intake from vegetables, you are both supporting the growth of good bacteria and controlling the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Limit your intake of refined/artificial sugars and processed foods: Research distinctly shows that artificial sweeteners alter the gut bacteria by feeding the bad bacteria, which is why you may have gas, bloating or diarrhea after consuming refined sugars and processed foods.
- Get the recommended amount of quality sleep each night: Irregular sleeping patterns and sleep deprivation can significantly change your cut flora. It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. For optimal sleep, put your electronic devices away before heading towards bed, try meditating or reading to relax your mind, and invest in a high-quality mattress.
- Practice stress management techniques: Ubbelohde states that your gut is like a second brain, and chronic stress can greatly affect it. Research shows that constant stress alters the composition of your gut bacteria in a negative way, which can lead to a vicious cycle of stress and illness. Work on finding healthy ways to relieve stress, such as exercise, and be mindful of your mental health.
- Incorporate a quality probiotic supplement: Nearly everyone can benefit from taking a high-quality probiotic. Harvard Health states that probiotic supplements can help prevent and even treat some illnesses such as IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, UTI’s, and more. If you feel overwhelmed trying to choose the right probiotic for you, it is recommended to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options.