While it’s easy to consider your body a single being, in fact we are each a large combination of several organisms. The tiny organisms (microbes) that aid in our bodily functions including digestion are critically important to our health. If those microbes get out of balance, our health can be severely impacted.
1. Definition of microbiome
The microbiome of a multi-celled organism such as a human is laden with microbes. In fact, while the human body is made up of millions of cells, we each contain more microbes than cells. Bacteria and some viruses are our constant companions, and while some can make us sick, many are good for us and critically important to our well-being.
2. Diseases that can be linked to dysfunction of the microbiome
Radical changes to the microbiome can come from several sources including stress and antibiotics. While antibiotics certainly have their place and have been saving lives since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, over use of antibiotics can upset the balance of many bodily systems.
Current research on microbiome health suggests that several conditions plaguing humans such as rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, asthma and colon cancer may be linked to disturbances to the microbiome.
3. How to test for Dysbiosis
Dysbiosis is simply a breakdown in the communal behavior of the microbes inside your body. When the body is in balance, the microbes live in symbiosis. When things get out of balance after long-term stress, infection or antibiotic dosage, one form of bacteria may die back while another surges. This imbalance may not manifest as a traditional infection but as inflammatory illness. Skin sensitivities, joint pain and digestive discomfort may occur when bacterial growth rates get out of balance.
4. How to improve the health of the microbiome
To maintain a healthy microbiome it’s important to eat a diet low in processed sugars. As research into the microbiome expands, some data suggests that even artificial sweeteners can cause unhealthy changes in the microbiome. Raw and natural sweeteners including raw honey are a much healthier alternative.
While prebiotic and probiotic supplements are an emerging industry with exciting health options for all of us, we can all be working to build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced biosphere without supplements. Fermented foods and many plain yogurts without extra sugar are an ideal way to build and maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the digestive tract. Additionally, a high fiber diet greatly aids the growth of healthy bacteria.
As more is known about the delicate balance inside each of us that is our microbiome, the science of probiotic supplements for nutritive balance and wellness will continue to expand. Mindful adjustments to your diet, medication and stress management process can aid all the processes of daily living. If you’re struggling with arthritis, uncomfortable skin conditions or digestive distress, you may be able to correct these conditions by nourishing your helpful microbes in a new way. Embrace your microbiome!