There is so much to love about bacteria! Did you know for every single human cell in your body, there are 10 bacterial cells?! That’s a lot of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (making up the gut microbiome), on your skin, on mucous membranes, in your lungs, and on any other body surface that is exposed to the outside world. We tend to think of bacteria as bad (and don’t get me wrong, there are harmful bacteria out there) but there is also a plethora of good bacteria that keep us healthy, nourished, and disease-free. Our bodies need our microbiome to survive and our microbiome needs us to survive, so we work together to survive and thrive.
How we help our microbiome:
- We nourish our gut microbiome with the foods we eat. In addition, goblet cells in our intestinal tract create mucus, which the bacteria consume.
- Our lower intestinal tract is void of oxygen, which is necessary for the survival of anaerobic bacteria.
- We create a warm, dark, moist place for the bacteria to flourish.
How our microbiome helps us:
- Our gut bacteria are quite good at taking up space, leaving no room for bad bacteria to take up residence. If you have ever received an antibiotic, it has killed some of the gut microbiome, leaving space for bacteria that aren’t typically in our microbiome to come in and potentially wreak havoc.
- Our gut microbiome can actively fight off pathogenic bacteria.
- Our gut microbiome helps us to digest foods that are too hard for our own bodies to digest, such as fiber and complex carbohydrates. By doing this, the bacteria create short chain fatty acids which our colon cells use as energy.
- Bacteria in the gut synthesize vitamin K which is mainly used to help our blood clot.
- Our microbiota teaches our immune system which bacteria are helpful and which bacteria are harmful. In doing so, the immune system learns to discriminate between the different types of bacteria to create an immune response to the appropriate microbes.
Ways to support a healthy gut microbiome:
- Eat fiber and complex carbohydrates to feed the microbiome. This means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. We can actually starve and kill off healthy bacteria in our microbiome by not eating fiber and complex carbs.
- Eat probiotic rich foods, such as sauerkraut, sourdough, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, miso.
- Avoid the use of antibiotics when possible. And take a probiotic supplement if you do have to receive an antibiotic.
- Avoid use of hand sanitizer and wash your hands instead.
- Spend time in nature with your hands and feet in the dirt.
- If you have the ability, grow your own organic food and eat foods right out of your garden.
- Engage in movement everyday.