What the heck is my microbiome?

Amy Wilson

Would you believe me if I told you that you are made up of trillions of bacteria? Sounds crazy right? The fact of the matter is that we have more bacteria in us, and on us at any given time, than all of our human cells combined. Bacteria is found everywhere throughout the human body. One very important place it is found however, is in our gut. Our intestines house an enormous ecosystem of bacteria.  Most of the time, are friendly and help us stay healthy. We refer to this as our "gut microbiome".
So, what is good bacteria?
Good bacteria contribute to our overall health and well-being. We are continuously discovering the never-ending extent into which these little bacteria are beneficial to us. Having a healthy gut microbiome contributes to many things, such as:
  • Stronger immune systems
  • Better energy levels
  • Proper digestion
  • Stable moods
  • Healthy weight
There are many ways to keep your gut microflora strong and thriving, in order to help contribute to better health. Listed below are a few ideas of how to incorporate these into your daily routine.
Gut microbiome

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

I know you hear this often, but we all need reminders from time to time. The bacteria in your gut love the fibres in fruits and vegetables. They use the fibre as a source of energy and it helps them grow strong, which in turn helps keep us strong. Here are some tips to follow: 
  • Consider keeping some, if not all, skin on fruits and vegetables because this is a great source of fibre for your gut.
  • Fermented foods such as tempeh and sauerkraut are great for your gut bacteria as well. Fermented foods are a bonus because they contain both prebiotics and probiotics.
  • Adding a new fruit or vegetable to your diet may also help maintain diversity of your gut microflora.

2. Limit stress.

I know this is easier said than done, but it is incredibly important. Stress wreaks havoc on your intestinal tract. Constantly being in a state of stress will cause long term damage all over your body, but especially in your gut. This is important because the bacteria in your gut need a healthy environment to thrive. So how do you mitigate the sometimes-unavoidable effects of stress? When you find yourself overwhelmed by daily stressors in life, take a moment to relax and take a deep breath. Stop for 2 minutes to close your eyes, breathe in for a count of five, and then out for another count of five. This is a great way to slow your heart rate and help bring those stress hormones back to baseline, which in turn will reduce the effects experienced in places like your gut and microbiome.

3. Get outside and get dirty.

Using antibacterial products consistently will also damage your microbiome. This means that it will not only destroy the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria that keep us healthy as well. It is also very important that our immune system does get exposed to bad bacteria. This exposure is vital for our body's ability to build up immunity to these not-so-friendly microbes. It allows our immune system to more readily defend itself in future exposures to these strains. Our bodies are brilliant and will constantly build immunity to bad bacteria and protect us more often then we realize. It is important to have this immunity strong for times when we really need it. When we use antibacterial products often, we kill off good bacteria, and do not provide our immune system with enough exposure to bad bacteria. Without this exposure to bad bacteria, our immune system cannot build up the correct resistance - sometimes it is okay to get a little dirty! If you want to maintain a healthy microflora the true trick is to keep it simple! Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, work on reducing stress. Next time you are at the park with your children, maybe try playing with them in the sandbox! Cheers to good health! Amy Wilson   Amy WilsonAmy is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with over 7 years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She is currently in her third year as a Naturopathic Medical Student and has a special interest in gut and brain health. Find her on Instagram: @amy_kwilson