The Microbiome and Your Health

The Microbiome and Your Health

The word Microbiome is popping up everywhere, although you may not have noticed because it is mostly on shower gel bottles, podcasts, and television adverts, but what does it all mean? 

People have been talking about gut health and probiotics for a number of years, but unless it is something that interests you, as it does me, it is unlikely that it means much more to you than eating the occasional Yakult or probiotic yoghurt. I studied Microbiology as one of my university subjects and find microbes quite fascinating, even if a little weird. Just ask my mum, I loved to grow a little science experiment or two in her fridge, much to her disgust. (Sorry Mum.)

The Microbiome is the ecosystem of microbiota/ microorganisms that live in and on our bodies. It was once thought that our human cells were outnumbered 10:1 by microbes, but the latest research shows that it’s actually closer to parity, so if humans are made up of around 10 trillion human cells, then they are also made up of 10 trillion microbes. These microbes are made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. 

But aren’t these bugs bad? 

In short, no. The vast majority are either neutral, doing nothing for or against us, or symbiotic in that, we feed them, and they keep us healthy. Microbes live on your skin, which is your largest organ and throughout your internal being. Microbes are your first defence as a major part of your immune system and the microbiome is essential to your wellbeing. 

In the human body, the microbiome is involved in appetite determination, gas production, immune response, inflammation, efficiency of digestion, the usage of food, mood regulation, toxin removal and many other functions. The microbiota can even impact the way in which we react to medications such as chemotherapy, and SSRIs used to treat depression.

A strong microbiome keeps us healthy by regulating biological functions such as digestion of food into constituent parts such as macro- and micronutrients. The majority of the microbes live in your gut, but they also exist throughout the body. They clear toxins from the body, create vitamins and create the by-product of short chain fatty acids which provide energy for cells.

Once upon a time, not that long ago (still going on this year – ahem, Covid), microbes were blamed solely for disease and assumed to be dirty leading to a culture of over-sanitising surfaces and hands and the air, killing every single possible microbe. The problem is these sanitisers kill all microbes, good ones and bad ones which is not a good thing and has led to the development of superbugs such as MRSA. 

Our immune system needs low-grade exposure to microbes, so that it can train its defence against the bad organisms.

How can you boost your microbiome naturally?

Microbiota are impacted by antibiotics, diet, and the environment. Everything we do has an impact on the microbiome, from the air we breathe to the food we put in our mouths to the medication we use to overcome illness. 

  • Seek out “microbiome friendly” soaps and shower gels. Harsher chemicals kill the microorganisms living on your skin, which are your first line of defence against disease and infection. 
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods e.g. yoghurt, some cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh etc. Fermented foods are probiotic and prebiotic, meaning they contain living microbes (probiotic), but they also provide food for the microbes living in your gut (prebiotic).
  • Add fresh honey into your diet. Honey has been shown to contain both prebiotics and probiotics. Manuka Honey from New Zealand is said to be of the highest probiotic quality.
  • Reduce the use of hand sanitisers and disinfectants which kill both the good microbes as well as the bad ones. While killing the bad ones seems like a good idea, that is the job of the good microbes which increases their “memory” (or your immunity) so killing them, is counterintuitive.

The Microbiome is the hot topic of the 21st century and research continues as scientists and medical professionals investigate the link between gut health and autism, diabetes, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue syndrome amongst other ailments. As this research is concluded, we learn more and more about the fascinating ecosystem of the human body and eradicate illnesses caused by imbalances in our gut health. Keeping your human self safe and healthy is important, but don’t forget to care for your microbial self too. 

Get in touch if you would like some help caring for your microbiome.

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