How Does Your Gut Microbiome Affect Your Health?
Research Links Your Gut to Your Overall Health
Some research over the past several years has focused on the microbes that live in our intestines. We now know that the bacteria and other microbes in the intestines form a community of trillions of microorganisms, which has been called the gut microbiome. It has also been discovered that this community of microorganisms affects our health in a variety of ways. To learn more about how your gut microbiome affects you and what you can do to help it thrive, read the following overview.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is home to bacteria, fungi, and the other microorganisms that live in the body and this community of microorganisms exists in the large intestines. Within the large intestines, there’s a pouch called the cecum and this is where the gut microbiome forms. It begins forming before we’re even born and develops over time from the moment we’re born. Several factors can influence the types of bacteria and microorganisms that live in the cecum, such as the foods we eat and the environmental factors of the air we breathe.
The bacteria in the microbiome has become the focus of research, because there is so much bacteria in the gut. There are 10 trillion more bacterial cells in the gut microbiome than there are human cells in the body, so it’s easy to see why the gut microbiome could impact health. The 40 trillion bacterial cells in the gut can be separated into 1,000 groups and each group interacts with the body in a different way.
What Part Does the Gut Play in Overall Health?
A fully diverse gut microbiome can affect various areas of your health in positive ways. We know that it enhances the immune system, but it also affects other areas of health. Here are a few ways that a diverse gut microbiome can affect your health.
The gut microbiome is home to the microorganisms that help us stay healthy, but bad bacteria can also thrive in this community. If you eat a poor diet, you may be ingesting harmful bacteria that can lead to a condition called gut dysbiosis. These types of bacteria can cause you to gain weight, or prevent you from losing weight.
Boost Digestive Health
If you experience irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive problems, this is likely the result of a poor diet that introduces harmful microorganisms into your gut microbiome. Alternatively, researchers have identified some types of bacteria, which include Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, that can improve the health of your digestive system. These types of bacteria counteract the gases and chemicals that the harmful bacteria generates.
Improve Heart Health
Research has found that the harmful bacteria found in red meat can contribute to heart disease by producing trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). This is a chemical compound that plays a part in causing blockages to develop in the arteries. In another study of 1,500 subjects, it was found that Lactobacilli and other types of beneficial bacteria help improve heart health by increasing the level of HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides.
Control Blood Sugar Levels
People who suffer from either diabetes may also suffer from a poor gut microbiome. In a study of 33 infants, researchers discovered that those infants at risk for developing type 1 diabetes also exhibited a less diverse gut microbiome. The researchers also found that the infants with a higher risk for type 1 diabetes had more harmful types of bacteria than the other infants.
How Can You Improve the Diversity of Your Gut Microbiome?
Eat a Broad Range of Natural Foods
Sticking to a plant-based diet is the best thing you can do for your gut microbiome. In particular, try to eat fruits and vegetables from each color group, because this will help you obtain a more diverse sampling of beneficial microorganisms.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are especially important to consume, because they contain the probiotics that are essential to a diverse and healthy gut. Some examples of fermented foods are plain yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir.
Eliminate Artificial Sweeteners
While you may think artificial sweeteners allow you to feed your sweet tooth safely, there’s new evidence that suggests these products do increase blood sugar levels. It may do this by introducing a harmful bacteria into the body, which is called Enterobacteriaceae.
There’s growing interest in foods rich in polyphenols, because these compounds act as antioxidants in the body. They attack free radicals and help reduce the risks of certain health conditions, including neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and digestive disorders. Polyphenols are commonly found in the skin of red grapes, red wine, dark chocolate, and olive oil.
These few dietary changes can help you improve the diversity of your gut microbiome, so you can enjoy some of the health benefits listed here. Keeping your gut healthy also involves resisting the urge to snack on unhealthy foods that contain refined sugar and trans fats. While research continues into this important area of human health, many people are already exploring how a healthier gut microbiome can help them live a longer and more satisfying quality of life.
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