A Healthy Microbiome: Essential for Good Health
How healthy is your microbiome? More and more research is shedding light on the major role that the bacteria in our bodies play in maintaining good health. Anxiety, asthma, autoimmune illness, heart disease, and cancer are just a few of the diseases now being linked to disturbances in the balance of bacteria within the human body. If you're struggling with health issues, your gut is one of the first places you should look to for answers.
Most of us grew up with the idea that all bacteria are bad. The truth is that many of the types of bacteria found in your gut as well as in other parts of your body like your nose, mouth, lungs, bladder, and vagina, are not just good, but actually essential for good health. These bacteria make up your microbiome. They help to keep the lining of your gut intact so that you can properly digest your food, absorb important nutrients, and synthesize vitamins. In addition, they protect you by inactivating and eliminating toxins (including those produced by the bad bacteria in your gut), viruses, fungus, and parasites which may have found their way into your gut, your airways or other mucus membrane covered organs.
But that's not all they do. Your mental health is also influenced by the balance of bacteria in your gut. In her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Natasha Campbell-McBride M.D. describes how a person's gut can become a major source of toxicity with serious effects on the brain. "An unknown number of various neurotoxins are produced by abnormal flora in the gut of these children and adults, these are absorbed through the damaged gut wall into the blood and taken to the brain." Numerous studies exploring the "gut/brain axis" support her point, having found links between anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD and the presence of certain types of "bad" bacteria in the human gut.
Is Too Much Hygiene Bad For Your Health?
Over the course of your life, many things can impact the balance of good and bad bacteria in your body:
Being bottle-fed as a baby.
Use of antibiotics.
Medications like antacids, antidepressants, and the Pill.
Diet high in carbohydrates, refined sugars.
Drinking chlorinated water
Even too much hygiene can have detrimental effects on your microbiome and, as a consequence, your immune system. The rise in allergies and autoimmune illnesses in western society may well stem from the "sterilization" of everyday life through the overuse of antibiotics as well as the everyday use hand disinfectants and household cleaners. The result is an unhealthy gut and a poorly trained immune system in the setting of what Moises Velasquez Manoff calls An Epidemic of Absence, his book detailing the rise of allergies and autoimmune diseases in recent generations.
Fermented Foods & Probiotics: Get the Balance Back in Your Gut
One of the most important things you can do to get and keep a healthy balance of gut bacteria is to eat foods that nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Getting enough fiber is vital to the health of your gut and most of us don't get enough of it. The American Department of Agriculture recommends that women should get 25 grams and men 38 grams of fiber daily. Your digestion needs to time to adjust to the added fiber in your diet, so increase the amount of fiber slowly and drink lots of water. Here are a few foods that are high in fiber and good for your gut:
Greens like spinach, Swiss Chard, collard greens
Whole grains with high fiber (check out the nutrition label for fiber content) content like quinoa, wheat berries
You should also eat foods that contain lots of healthy bacteria: Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha, Kimichi, Sauerkraut, Pickles, Tempeh, Miso Soup.
Probiotics are key to rebuilding a healthy microbiome. Probiotic supplements are available for children as well as adults. Since there are many different strains of bacteria in your body and many different types of probiotics, it's a good idea to consult your health care practitioner for advice. While probiotics are important for good health, there are some people who should not take them:
Critically ill people
People who have had recent surgery
People with weakened immune systems
If you would like more information on how to rebuild your microbiome and restore your health, please contact us today for an appointment. You can also take a look at our past blogs on probiotics. Check out our e-store as well for specific information on UltraFlora Probiotics from Metagenics.
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Campbell-Mcbride, N. GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome. 2002
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Velasquez Manoff, M. An Epidemic of Absence. A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases. 2012
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.