Your Mysterious Microbiome

You have a whopping 39 trillion microbes in your body! Let that sink in. I can’t even imagine that many. These microbes break down your food, support your immune system, create vitamins, assemble amino acids, produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and norepinephrine, maintain your intestinal lining, and so much more.

When these microbes are out of balance, we get inflammation and dysbiosis, also known as leaky gut. This creates low grade, chronic inflammation that is the pre-cursor to disease. Beneficial species protect us from chronic illness, but when we have a low diversity, we are at high risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, ulcerative colitis, IBD and IBS, and autoimmune illnesses.

What does it mean that they are out of balance?

We need a large variety of microbes and a great deal of all of them. This is our personal ecosystem. Since the beginning of the human race, we have people who do good things for people, and we have people who don’t. Our microbes are the same. We need enough of the providers and protectors to keep the dangerous microbes under control. Even the dangerous ones do provide something, so we can’t just eliminate them all. Many people don’t like poisonous snakes, but if we eliminated all poisonous snakes, we would end up with too many rodents and things that those snakes eat. Everything has a purpose. When we don’t have enough of the beneficial microbes, nutrients are not created or absorbed, toxins build-up, toxins get where they do not belong, and disease occurs. When we combine genes, low grade inflammation, and high stress, we get an environment that leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, brain dysfunction, osteoporosis, autoimmune illnesses, and cancers. Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s occur when toxins are leaked that reach the brain, so not only does the gut lining get damaged, there are times where the blood-brain barrier gets damaged, too. For those of us with a genetic tendency for certain diseases, we need to sit up and pay attention. Taking care of our microbes is just the thing we need to do to live a long, healthy, functional life.

How do you know if you are prone to Leaky Gut?

Indigestion, allergies, asthma, food sensitivities, and skin issues are all early signs of dysbiosis. Foods are key to maintaining a healthy microbiome, but we are surrounded by poor foods, chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, chemicals in the air and our water, and we are under a lot of stress. We need to clean up our environment inside our body and home, and clean up our foods. We also need ways to relax and manage stress.

For optimal health, we need to focus on the gut. Diversity is key.

We Must Eat the Rainbow.

Each species in your microbiome requires a different set of nutrients. We need to make sure that we are eating all of the nutrients that we know about and even the ones that haven’t been discovered, yet. That is why we need a diverse array of foods and foods in their whole state. When we eat foods that are processed, we lose a lot of important nutrients. We need to eat as much of the fruit, vegetable, grain, nut, seed, and bean as we can. That includes the skins/peels of those that are edible. We need to properly soak and prepare grains, beans, nuts, and seeds to get all of their nutrients and eat the peel of the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

When you plan your meals, switch up the fruits and vegetables that you use. We all get stuck in a rut, but switch your lettuce to romaine or butterleaf for a week, switch spinach for chard, switch curly leaf kale for flat-leaf or collards, or Napa cabbage, …. This not only feeds different species, it prevents us from developing food sensitivities from foods we eat every day. Look for new foods and foods you have never tried. It’s too easy to google or find a YouTube video for recipes and tips to prepare different foods. It’s

getting harder and harder to find a variety of foods! I read a study that said that 66% of the crops grown world-wide are only 9 plants! The 3 main crops are rice, wheat, and corn. Eat lots of different plants. Let’s push the demand for more choices, so we can get more farms to grow more variety!

Eat more fiber!

95% of Americans do NOT meet the dietary fiber recommendations of 25- 35 grams of fiber a day. This is SAD! I eat over 20 grams a day for breakfast without even trying. Eat some fruits and veggies, people! All plant foods have fiber. Animal products do not contain fiber and most processed foods have had their fiber removed, so we must eat real, whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. Plants. You must eat plants.

Fiber is the fuel our microbes need. The microbes eat the fiber and create short-chain fatty acids which lower inflammation, absorb nutrients, maintain our gut integrity, and even increase metabolism.

The most beneficial microbes love fiber and resistant starches, so these need to be a part of our daily diet. Resistant starches are found in oats, rice, grains, and beans. These aren’t the only fibers we need to eat, we need to take in all forms of fiber. Everyone needs at least 1 serving of beans or peas every day.

A low fiber diet starves the bacteria. When the bacteria don’t get the nutrients that they need, they begin to feed on the mucosal lining of our intestines, which leads to tears and leaky gut, intestinal permeability. Other fibers found in plant foods act as a pre-biotic. Good sources of prebiotics include onions, garlic, chicory, artichokes, asparagus, psyllium, beans, oats, and mushrooms.

Another good source of nutrients for the gut is fermented foods like yogurt, Kim chi, miso, and sauerkraut. It is easy to buy these in the store, but most store-bought fermented foods are pasteurized which kills the bacteria or are made with poor quality probiotics. Store-bought yogurts are usually made with lactobacillus which is a cheaper probiotic that can live longer in the fridge. By the time you eat it at home, there’s not much left, and you need a lot more than just a few species to get the benefits. It’s easy to ferment your own. Fermented foods have been a part of history for thousands of years, so find some good recipes and make your own.

Our microbiome has been developing and changing since our birth. If you were born vaginally, you received a lot more beneficial microbes than those of us born by c-section. If you were breastfed, you received many more beneficial microbes. If you have had a lot of antibiotics or surgeries, you have lost a lot of beneficial microbes. Many pathogens have stronger cell structures and can handle adverse events better than the softer cell structure of the beneficial varieties. Other things that hurt the microbiome are stress, poor diet, toxins, pain killers, steroids, fluoride, chlorine in our drinking water, cleansers, and even hand-sanitizers. Have you ever read that the hand-sanitizer kills 98-99% of germs? It wipes outmost of the microbes, but it just can’t get through the tough walls of the worst pathogens. The pathogens that are left are able to increase in number and size before the others come back.

The most beneficial species are Akkermansia muciniphila Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, and Bifidobacteria.

Bifidobacteria is the group of species that is always recommended after a deep detox, candida cleanse, or course of antibiotics. Foods that boost the Bifidobacteria need to be included regularly. Foods,herbs, and spices like berries, nuts, cloves, beans, peppermint, flax seeds, olives, and artichokes are very beneficial.

Other ways to increase the beneficial microbes are getting outside in nature. Dig in the dirt, get grounded (stand on the ground in your bare feet or better yet, get to beach and put those feet in the sand and ocean). Breathe fresh air. Meditate and take a time out to relax and recover from a stressful work day.

Eat a wide variety of plants, and work on ways to mix it up each week. So many of us get stuck in a rut, or have pizza Friday, Taco Tuesday, …. Put some veggies on the pizza or eat a salad with it. Add some fajita veggies and guacamole to that taco. Find ways to increase the quantity and quality of your plant foods and become friends with your mysterious microbiome.

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