What Is the Gut Microbiome?
If you have not heard about your gut microbiome, you are in for a real treat!
Your guts are full of bacteria—sounds gross, right? But the good news is that most of them are doing amazing things for us on a daily basis. Think of your gut like the soil of a garden. A garden needs quality soil in order to grow a highly nutritious yummy plant or food. If the soil is ridden with disease or bad bugs or is deficient in certain nutrients, it won’t produce a good plant or crop.
Same thing goes with our gut microbiome. This gets established when you are born. Typically, when you come out, you swallow a bunch of secretions that start the growth of bacteria that will live inside your gut. This starts your immune system. If you are given too many antibiotics at a young age, it can be detrimental to the growth of a healthy microbiome.
We have over a trillion bacteria and many, many different species of bacteria. These bacteria play a vital role in our digestion, production, and absorption of key nutrients to keep our cells healthy. They are responsible for 70% of our immune system functions and protect the rest of our body from pathogens that come in from our food so we can pass that out in our stool.
There is a gut-brain connection as well due to a large nerve called the vagus nerve that comes from the base of our brain down to the gut and back up. The cells that line this are in constant communication with each other. You know that saying, “I just have a gut feeling?” Or when you are nervous about a test or worrying about something and get digestive symptoms? That’s that awesome gut-brain connection.
Many diseases and chronic illness can be traced back to the health of our gut. Skin, mental health, digestive issues, immune issues like allergies, infections, and more serious issues like autoimmune disease and even cancer. Even being overweight is related to poor gut health. The diversity of our gut bugs is changing due to antibiotic overuse, medications, hormones in our food and water, pesticides, and the many environmental toxins we are exposed to daily. All of this combined with how stressful life can be, not making the best food choices, and not getting enough quality sleep is only making matters worse.
The good news
We can do something about it! I have firsthand experience with poor gut health. As a kid I had lots of antibiotics for infections and then acne, and then had chemotherapy and radiation at age 20 for my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This led to chronic allergies and recurrent sinus infections, autoimmune thyroid disease, a decade long battle with anxiety, continued skin breakouts, and digestive issues. Once I learned about the gut, I made changes over time that have continued to benefit my health, and I am happy to say that my prior issues listed above are no more. I am at a healthy weight and feel optimistic about being here for the long haul for my family.