You’ve undoubtedly heard of the microbiome – whether from ads selling particular products to information surrounding the dangers of over-prescribing antibiotics. But maybe what you don’t know is how essential the microbiome is to our overall health and wellbeing and why we should be considering it as we select what’s best for us to consume.
For starters, the microbiome is made up of 50 TRILLION microbes and is essentially a large ecosystem that lives in your gut – the 33 foot long tube that goes from your mouth to your anus. (1) In fact, we are outnumbered 10-to-1 by the cells of the microbes in our gut! It’s no wonder the microbiome plays such a central role in our lives.
We evolved for millions of years in a reciprocal relationship with these bacteria. Who we are to-date is the best example of what evolution has created to withstand our current environment and circumstances. It’s that important. So it should be no surprise that our microbiome affects our:
- hormone balance
- immune function
- insulin resistance
- mood, and
- our genes! (2)
Consider your microbiome as a ecosystem, and we can either support a healthy ecosystem that looks like a lush green garden, or one that looks like a battlefield, wrecking inflammation within our whole system.
What creates the microbiome as battlefield? For starters – junk food, some medications like PPIs (Nexium, Prilosec), NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, Aspirin) and antibiotics. And non-organic animal products that come from animals that have been treated with antibiotics. (2)
On the other hand, a healthy lush microbiome is diverse and this is cultivated through a varied consumption of fiber and omega-3s. Studies show the importance of eating 30+ different plants per week to sustain this diverse microbiome. (1)
Some of the best sources of foods that we can eat to feed, populate and diversify our good bacteria are:
- fermented foods
- legumes (most powerful for gut-healing)
- omega-3s (flaxseed, chia, salmon, sardines) (4)
- sulforaphane (most concentrated form is in broccoli sprouts) (2)
- whole grains
When eating these foods, we are not only feeding our good bacteria within our microbiome with the fiber they require, but we are also repopulating them with the good bacteria living on these foods. More recent research shows that eating these foods are even more effective in repopulating a diverse microbiome than is the ingestion of a singular probiotic. (3)
In case you needed inspiration for you and your family to incorporate more plants into your meals, here you go. You’re welcome :-).
- “American Gut Overview.” Americangut.Org, americangut.org/american-gut-overview/. Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.
- Bulsiewicz, B., 2020. Fiber Fueled. 1st ed. Avery.
- Suez J, Zmora N, Zilberman-Schapira G, et al. Post-Antibiotic Gut Mucosal Microbiome Reconstitution Is Impaired by Probiotics and Improved by Autologous FMT. Cell. 2018;174(6):1406-1423.e16. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2018.08.047
- Menni C, Zierer J, Pallister T, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids correlate with gut microbiome diversity and production of N-carbamylglutamate in middle aged and elderly women. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):11079. Published 2017 Sep 11. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10382-2