- the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
“We depend on a vast army of microbes to stay alive: a microbiome that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.”
- the combined genetic material of the microorganisms in a particular environment.
“Understanding the microbiome—human, animal, and environmental—is as important as the human genome.”
Coined in 2001 by molecular biologist Joshua Lederberg, the term ‘microbiome’ has only just recently started to get attention when it comes to gastrointestinal or ‘gut’ health. Besides our microbes’ essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins, studies have linked the microbiome to gut health as well as human mood and behavior, human development, and metabolic disorders.
Moreover, it’s becoming increasingly clear that assaulting our gut systems with pharmaceutical drugs, harsh environmental chemicals and toxic foods is a primary factor in rising disease rates. Because 60-80% of our immune system is located in our gut, gastrointestinal (GI) imbalances have been linked to skyrocketing rates of obesity, autism and the intestinal diseases of Crohn’s, ileitis and colitis. Hormonal imbalances (thyroid, adrenals) can usually be directly related to, among other things, a Western diet high in sugars and carbohydrates. Such bad eating habits throw the delicate balance of intestinal bacteria out of whack. When your gut is unhealthy, it can cause more woes than just stomach pain, gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
Recent research suggests intestinal inflammation may play a critical role in the development of certain cancers and immune system diseases. Until we begin to communicate clearly about this complex relationship, we will not be able to prevent or intervene effectively in many of the diseases that are devastating people’s lives today.
In order for true healing and meaningful prevention to occur, you must continuously send your body messages that it is safe, that it’s not under attack, and that it is well nourished, supported, and calm. Your own research regarding diet, supplements and calming support programs such as meditation, yoga and other holistic applications will help you on the path to better health. Many nutritionists and naturopathic doctors can be a huge help in helping educate you in how to keep your gut happy and healthy, thereby ensuring your mental and physical well-being at the same time!
Research is also finding that a healthy microbiome or probiotic may play “a huge major role in reducing inflammation in the gut, a risk factor involved in illnesses ranging from colds to cancer, heart disease, arthritis, anxiety, depression and cognitive decline,” according to Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple. In addition, the bacteria may help burn body fat and reduce insulin resistance. So to stay slim and healthy, she suggests, you consider adding more probiotic foods to your diet. You can find good probiotics at your health food store; the best quality ones are usually refrigerated.
Microbiome testing can be arranged through your local naturopathic doctor or possibly your M.D. It can be costly, but well worth it as the unique problems that may be challenging your immune system will be uncovered. You will then be able to design with your health care provider the perfect dietary and supplementary program for your healthy future.
Remember Health is Wealth and it’s important to invest in your future!