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Exploring Your Gut & Microbiome

Trust Your Gut: Understanding the Power of the Microbiome

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Kristina Campbell, MSc from the CDHF weighs in on the complexities and impact that the microbiome has on our overall health.

The human body is a marvel of complexity, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the microbiome — the vast ecosystem of microorganisms that call our bodies home. From the bacteria in our gut to the fungi on our skin, these microscopic inhabitants play a crucial role in our health and well-being. Let’s jump into some frequently asked questions! 

What is the microbiome?

The microbiome refers to the collection of microorganisms — including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more — that inhabit various parts of the human body. These microbes can be found in places such as the gut, skin, mouth, and reproductive organs, where they form complex communities known as microbiota.

What does the microbiome do?

The microbiome performs a wide range of functions that are essential to human health. In the gut, for example, certain bacteria help to digest food, produce vitamins, and regulate the immune system. In the skin, microbes can protect against harmful pathogens and maintain the skin’s barrier function. Overall, the microbiome plays a critical role in maintaining the balance and harmony of the body’s internal environment.

How does the microbiome affect health?

Research has shown that the microbiome can have a profound impact on various aspects of health, including digestion, immune function, metabolism, and even mental health. Imbalances in the microbiome — known as dysbiosis — have been linked to a range of health conditions, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), obesity, and depression. By understanding and supporting the health of the microbiome, we may be able to prevent or manage certain health problems more effectively.

What factors influence the microbiome?

A variety of factors can influence the composition and function of the microbiome, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, age, and environmental exposures. For example, a diet rich in fibre and fermented foods can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while certain medications, such as antibiotics, can disrupt the balance of the microbiome. By making healthy lifestyle choices and avoiding unnecessary interventions, we can help to support a healthy microbiome.

How do you improve or restore the gut microbiome? 

Scientists haven’t yet identified the ‘ideal’ gut microbiome, as it varies among individuals. However, some key principles stand out. Consuming a diverse range of fiber sources, like salads, beans, and whole grains, supports a thriving microbial community. Aim for at least 30 different plant foods weekly for optimal gut health.

Additionally, fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir contain live microorganisms linked with reduced inflammation and various health benefits. While these foods boost microbe numbers, not all qualify as probiotics. True probiotics are measured and tested for health benefits. Consider supplements for targeted digestive or immune support. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome promotes overall well-being, enhancing digestion, immunity, and more. 

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