Chances are if you’re in the wellness industry you’ve heard of the microbiome. Its research is one of the trendiest topics in biology today. But for those of you less-versed (myself included), we’re going to give you the 411 on what the heck it is and why you should be paying attention.
First, what is the microbiome?
I found it best described in an article published by Harvard School of Public Health: “Picture a bustling city on a weekday morning, the sidewalks flooded with people rushing to get to work or to appointments. Now imagine this at a microscopic level and you have an idea of what the microbiome looks like inside our bodies, consisting of trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) of thousands of different species. These include not only bacteria but fungi, parasites, and viruses. In a healthy person, these ‘bugs’ coexist peacefully, with the largest numbers found in the small and large intestines but also throughout the body.
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The microbiome is even labeled a supporting organ because it plays so many key roles in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body.” In layman’s terms, they are basically an ecosystem of millions of organisms that affect pretty much our entire body and the way it functions. This is why taking care of it matters so much.
Where do gut microbes come from?
First, from birth. When you emerge from the birth canal you are instantly receiving handover bacteria. Then during breastfeeding, you are also receiving microbes from your mother’s milk. Your environment, your diet, your stress levels, and the drugs you take (i.e. antibiotics) can all have an effect on your microbiome. It’s constantly changing.
How do microbes affect health?
Microbiomes differ from person to person. It’s the reason why certain people respond differently to different foods and how they respond to certain drugs. It’s also recently been linked to conditions (like diabetes, anxiety, and obesity) raising possible links between the gut microbiome and numerous aspects of our health. When it comes to weight, microbes can affect appetite, production of gases, the efficiency of using food, and impact on the immune system and inflammation.
How do I keep my microbiome healthy?
This is where prebiotics and probiotics come in! Prebiotics are substances that help useful microbes thrive, while probiotics (which are microbes themselves!) are incredibly beneficial to your overall health in general.
The microbe is a relatively new but exciting area of study that shows us how everything, literally everything, in our bodies is all connected somehow. After all, if your gut is happy, chances are you’ll be happy too.
Photo Credit: The Beauty Chef