3 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Microbiome
By: Jessica Kelley, NLC
When you think of health and wellness, you probably think of how much you weigh, what you eat, and how much you exercise…NOT your microbiome. Your micro-what?! Your microbiome, which is a fancy word for the bacteria living in your gut (and in other spots all over your body, like in your mouth and on the skin).
But you should!
Yep, believe it or not, there are trillions of different kinds of bacteria living in your GI tract. We used to think these teensy-tiny bacteria were only connected to digestion and nutrient absorption, but they have a far greater impact on your overall health than originally believed.
Over the past several years, scientists have found that gut bacteria affect how we feel, how much we weigh, and how well we can fight off infections.
So yep, your microbiome may not sound sexy, but it certainly contributes to how sexy you feel.
3 things you didn’t know about your microbiome:
Your microbiome affects your mood
If you seem to always feel tired, sluggish, or just in a funk, it might be time to look inward—and by inward I mean your GI tract.
Your gut bacteria influences chemicals (dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin) that send messages in your brain. Interestingly, these chemicals are actually produced in the gut and delivered back to the brain.
These chemicals are super important because they help relieve stress, control your mood, and raise alertness. They’re also linked to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. So, if your gut bacteria becomes imbalanced, it can cause a delay in the delivery of the chemicals to your brain and ultimately result in an altered mood. Bottom line, a happy gut = a happy you!
Your microbiome influences your weight
If you can’t lose that stubborn extra weight and you’re doing everything else right, it might have something to do with the bacteria in your gut.
Research shows there are both “good” and “bad” types of bacteria located in your GI tract. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria, the imbalance can silently wreak havoc on your body and cause it to store excess fat.
Some contributors to this overgrowth of bad bacteria include overuse of antibiotics, chronic stress, and a low fiber diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. The good news is there are simple things you can do to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut!
- Eat a high fiber diet, from whole food sources, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Some of my favorites are buckwheat, quinoa, beans, broccoli, raspberries, apples, figs, pears, avocados, and almonds.
- Incorporate foods that are considered a “prebiotic”. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria. These nondigestible or partially digestible fibers are found in bananas, garlic, asparagus, sunchokes (aka: Jerusalem artichokes), leeks, and onions.
- Incorporate a probiotic! “Pro”-biotics are different than “pre”-biotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be naturally found in fermented foods. Probiotics are often thought of as packaged supplements, and while they can be, you can also get probiotics through food sources. The most common probiotic food is yogurt, but probiotics are also found in other fermented foods such as cheese, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, and miso soup. I recommend adding as much of these foods to your meals as possible or start taking a probiotic supplement daily.
Your microbiome develops your immune system
Believe it or not, 75-80% of your immune system resides in your gut. However, this hasn’t always been the case. Babies are actually born with a bacteria-free gut since the womb is a sterile environment. Once you’re born, your gut bacteria starts taking shape and you begin to build your immune system.
You’re exposed to bacteria on a daily basis. Whether it be in the air you breathe, the food you eat, or simply by wiping your eyes or nose, you come in contact with bacteria. Your body is amazing in that it fights off the bacteria and remembers how it did it. Therefore, the more exposure you have to bacteria, the more diverse your internal ecosystem and the stronger your immune system becomes.
I think we can all agree that the body is a complex system. But would you ever have guessed the bacteria in your GI tract play such a big role in your overall health?
If you’ve never given much thought about the trillions of little creatures hanging out in your gut, try incorporating some probiotic foods, a probiotic supplement, and more prebiotics foods on a daily basis. You just might realize you’re happier and healthier and may even lose a pound or two!
About The Author:
Jessica Kelley is the founder of Nourished by Nutrition. She has a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics and is currently in her dietetic internship and working on getting her Masters Degree in Nutrition Therapy. She is an advocate for staying fit and finding a source of movement you truly love. Jessica spends most of her free time in the kitchen, playing with her two pups, or curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of warm tea. She believes healthy is a lifestyle that encompasses whole living and balance in all aspect of life, with nutritious food being the foundation. Jessica focuses on predominantly nutrient-dense, plant-based recipes that are designed to leave you feeling amazing. You can check out Nourished by Nutrition here, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.