by Vera Vos
One of the most fascinating and significant biological discoveries of this century is that we are not alone in our bodies.
Human bodies are made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. There is an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms (single celled creatures) that live on and within us, about 3 times more cells than our own bodies! Whole ecosystems of microorganisms live in every part of our body – skin, brain, liver, lungs, etc. The ecosystem that gets most talked about is our gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that inhabit our gut), which when all dumped together on a scale weighs about 2 Kg and consists of at least 1,000 species of bacteria, not to mention viruses, fungi, protozoa and archaea. Two thirds of our gut microbiome is unique to us as an individual, like our finger print.
Why is this such a big deal? We still have lots to learn but all the microorganisms in our body and, maybe, especially our gut microbiome have a huge influence on our health. They are major contributors to digestion and largely responsible for extracting nutrients from food. They spearhead the production of certain vitamins like B and K and play a major role in immune function. The surprising thing is how much influence they have on today’s most common disease processes.
Due to changes in our food supply and other factors, certain strains of microorganisms are increasingly common in the human gut and may be associated with weight gain and obesity, cancers, autoimmune disorders, and mental health, especially depression, anxiety and autism.
Considering obesity is associated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, arthritits, and many other chronic diseases, the unique make-up of our own gut microbiome is very significant to our health.
So how do we maximize the health of our gut microbiome, and, coincidentally our own health? Obviously eating a healthy diet is most important. I recommend 70-80% or more of our diet be whole plants – vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Buying organic, local and seasonal or growing your own is probably best and adding lots of fresh herbs and spices, wild mushrooms and fermented foods creates a favorable gut environment for healthy microbes. There are more non-gluten grains available than ever before and sprouted, organic wheat products may be tolerable for those sensitive to wheat gluten.
If you would like to learn a whole lot more about how our microbiome influences our health and how to cultivate a microbiome that helps us thrive, check out the program below: