It’s long been discussed that proper nutrition is an essential element in maintaining our health, but as new research comes out that explores what’s in our digestive system, it’s becoming more and more clear that there’s a strong link between gut health and our overall well being. In fact, 60-80% of our immune system lives in the gut.
Aside from being composed of cellular matter, scientists have uncovered that the microbe is a populous piece of our body. As a living organism, a microbe can be described as good bacteria in our bodies and can number into the tens of trillions in the average adult.
How do these microbes affect our digestive system, and more importantly, how does what we eat affect this ecosystem of bacteria that works so hard to keep us healthy?
Inspecting The Microbiome
Each of our bodies hosts an immense amount of microbes, and while they can be present in many areas, the bulk of them are found in our digestive system. This grouping of microbes is referred to as our microbiome and is an important factor in our gut health. A microbiome can be viewed as a large part of our genetic makeup, in that its microbes can have an effect on everything from our weight, susceptibility to certain diseases, and our body type.
Beyond the composition of our body, the microbiome can also play a major deciding role in how healthy we are throughout our lifetime. Studies are still being conducted regularly, and there is a clear indication that the health of our gut is strongly linked to certain conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
When we stop to think about the correlation, it actually makes a lot of sense. Since a microbiome requires a certain type of homeostasis to function, just like any other aspect of our body, throwing things off track can have negative results. This is especially true when thinking about how digestive conditions can be so strongly linked to the food that we eat.
Modifying Our Gut Through Science
There’s been plenty of press around gene modification, and only just this year have researchers shown promise with attempting to correct diseases at their most basic level. Taking a page from this strategy, studies are being conducted in an effort to alter our microbiome as well.
Both The Rockefeller University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai have come across an amazing discovery that will no doubt aid in the quest for microbiome modification. As living organisms that are constantly changing, our microbes communicate and respond to stimuli in the same way as our other cells, meaning that we might be able to influence how our gut health operates.
Making changes to our gut health through scientific means can have a large impact on our immune systems, metabolism, chronic disease, and even our behavior, as some think that gut microbes influence behavior and depression.
Treating Our Microbes With Care
Short of engaging in scientific modifications, how can the average person make a positive impact on their gut health and cultivate a strong microbiome? The answer is a little more complex than some might make it out to be, as there still isn’t a clear link between how the food we eat actually affects the microbiome itself.
As a general rule, it’s been noted that foods with probiotics as well as prebiotics can both have beneficial effects on our gut health. For individuals who want to start on the right track toward a healthier lifestyle on a microbial level, there are a few specific foods that are recommended:
- Raw garlic, leeks, asparagus, and onion are all sources of prebiotic foods that could help to promote weight loss
- Beans, bananas, chicory, and Jerusalem artichokes can also aid in boosting gut health
- Yogurt, kefir, lassi, and raw milk cheese can help to curb your dairy cravings while providing immense doses of good gut bacteria
- Sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and pickles offer cultured and fermented bacteria that can maintain microbiome homeostasis
While some experts mention that eating these foods occasionally may not be enough to dramatically change the makeup of our gut health, taking a more consistent approach and consuming probiotic and prebiotic food in larger quantities could result in a marked change.
Ultimately, this insight into our microbes just further proves that health, weight loss, and chronic disease cannot be addressed with one simple fix. Our bodies are highly complex machines and approaching our overall well being from a variety of standpoints is more likely to yield the results we’re looking for.