The Fascinating Microbiome
Do you know that you have a vast ecosystem in your body that helps you stay healthy? The so-called microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota) of thousands of different species including bacteria, fungi, parasites and other microbes.
We have more microbiota than human cells in our bodies!
It is estimated that we have 30 trillion of human cells in our body, and 39 trillion of microbe cells. Because of their small size, they only make 1 – 3 % of our body mass. A well-functioning microbiome helps to control the immune system, regulate our digestion and protect the body from pathogens. The largest collection of microbiotas in a person is found in the small and large intestines. Other areas of habitat are the mouth, skin, nose, lungs, liver and even the brain.
Microbiome is important for healthy functioning of our body.
Microbiologists’ studies have verified that the network of microbiota help absorb nutrients, produce enzymes and certain vitamins, and break down chemicals that otherwise could cause cancer or other diseases. In a healthy body, pathogenic and symbiotic microbiota coexist peacefully and provide a balance. In the gut, these microbiota help keep the intestinal mucus lining healthy and support the immune system. Research has shown that the microbiome plays a key role in the healthy functioning of our body, and it has a direct impact on mood and mental health as well.
Each person has a unique network of microbiota.
We are born with a unique microbiome. Newborn babies get their first microbiome from their mother during birth. During that journey, a newborn baby gets completely covered with bacteria, therefore receiving its unique microbiome. In our life time, our inner ecosystem changes constantly when we are exposed to different environments, places and people. We also ingest microbes with every food we eat. Microbes enter our body when cuddling with the cat or hugging another person. It is healthy to have a vast diversity of microbiota. The constant adaptation is crucial, and it results in our microbe’s capacity to keep us healthy. In a balanced microbiome pathogens are outnumbered by helpful microbiota.
Our microbiome is challenged by our modern life-style.
Research has proven that children who live on farms are less prone to develop asthma or allergies than children who live in urban environments. People in rural areas have shown to have better microbes than city-dwellers. Living close to Nature is of paramount importance to keep a balanced ecosystem in our body. Whereas our ancestors worked and lived in the fields and gardens, now we are removed from our natural environment to a great extent. Exposure to environmental toxins, unhealthy eating habits and a disconnect from Nature all have a negative impact on the microbiome. These factors reduce the diversity of our microbiota. An imbalanced microbiome makes the body more susceptible to illness and can pave the way for many diseases including cancer, autoimmune diseases or gastrointestinal issues.
HOW CAN WE SUPPORT OUR MICROBIOME?
Expose yourself to Nature on a daily basis!
We live in quite a sterile environment, especially now with increased sanitization and cleaning during the pandemic. We need help diversify our microbiome as much as possible by spending time in Nature: Go walking, hiking or mountain-biking. Hug a tree, walk barefoot on the beach or lie on the ground in your front yard. Do organic gardening and get your hands into the soil. Eat tomatoes off the wine or enjoy your organic carrots right after pulling them out of the ground. Let your kids play in the dirt and cuddle with your pets!
Eat a healthy diet including fiber
The microbiome in the gut thrives on dietary fiber. Consume foods (best organic) that are rich in dietary fiber, so eat a variety of complex carbohydrates in fruit, vegetable and grains. There are many fiber-rich foods such as apples, avocados, barley, beans, berries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, lentils, nuts or seeds. Researches have verified the link between fiber intake and the positive outcome on the microbiome in the gut. A diverse fiber diet helps to protect the inner lining of the intestinal wall and strengthens the immune function.
Consume probiotics and fermented foods
Humans have a long history of eating bacteria living on our foods. Before refrigeration and hygiene became widespread, eating bacteria on food was part of everyday life. Fermented foods are still common in many cultures today such as kimchi (Korea), sauerkraut (Germany) or miso (Japan). When using fermented foods in your diet regularly, you get enough probiotics for a diverse and healthy microbiome. It may be beneficial to take a probiotic supplement after using antibiotics, when coming down with a cold or after food poisoning.
Limit antibiotics to a minimum
Overuse of antibiotics may harm our gut health. Each antibiotic exposure takes a toll on one’s microbiota’s diversity which opens the risks to infections afterwards. There are times when taking antibiotics is unavoidable. But as a society, we are overusing them. Limiting the use of antibiotics helps sustain overall health.
Please note: The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in not meant as substitute for medical counselling. If you have a serious medical condition or you are taking any medications, please consult your doctor before using any suggested health treatment.