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Gut Microbiome

Meeting the little microbes inside us all

Are you taking good care of your microorganisms?

You have about 2 pounds of bacteria in your gut alone. These play an important role in both digestion and immune health, and it’s only recently that research on the subject has absolutely exploded (after the 2007 Human Microbiome Project). Scientists are finding tons of correlations between gut microbiome and general health, including obesity and diabetes.

Gut bacteria help us break down foods into nutrients our bodies can use. They also produce some of the vitamins we need to stay healthy. The types of bacteria you have can change throughout your life based on diet and environment, but what matters just as much as the types you have is how well they function.

The bacteria in our guts have their own metabolism, determining how effectively they break down food. The probiotic supplement industry, based on the concept of putting more healthy bacteria in your gut, has gotten huge in the past few years, but research hasn’t proven that simply adding more bacteria to your gut will change the nutrients you get out of your food. But there IS research that suggests a diet rich in the foods that beneficial bacteria use for fuel will stimulate the growth and activity of these bacteria. These are called PREbiotics, and include complex carbohydrates and foods high in plant fiber. Diets low in simple sugars and processed carbs also help prevent growth of harmful bacteria. Fermented foods contain both probiotics and prebiotics, so they have both the fuel and the microorganisms.

But why does all of this matter? Well, gut microbiome has been linked to food cravings, metabolic function, anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, autism, Alzheimer’s, and more. Our gut is connected to our brain through the central nervous system, and though we are still studying causation for many of these conditions, we do know that they are profoundly linked. A change in diet towards gut bacteria-friendly foods could be a critical step towards all-around health.

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