While some bacteria are associated with diseases, others are extremely important for your overall health. In fact, your body is teeming with trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that keep you alive and healthy. These are collectively known as your microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for your immune system, weight, heart, mood and many other aspects of your health.
While our understanding is still limited, we know that our microbiome is influenced for better or worse by certain environments, behaviours and food. Studies also indicate that by consuming food that encourages a diverse array of beneficial microbes, you can improve your overall health.
What is in Your Gut Microbiome?
Humans and microbes have evolved to coexist for millions of years. Over time, microbes have learned to play crucial roles in the human body, so much so that we couldn’t survive without them now. The gut microbiome begins to affect your body the moment you are born and possibly before, as a foetus inside the womb. As you age, your gut microbiome starts to diversify. Having a highly diverse microbiome is healthy.
Our gut microbiome changes rapidly over our first year or two, shaped by microbes in breast milk, the environment and other factors. By the time we’re three years old, it stabilises. However, our environment, our long-term diet, stress and the drugs we take, such as antibiotics, continue to play a role as we grow, meaning our microbiome can change throughout our life.
How to Naturally Increase the Good Bacteria in Your Gut
You can maintain the health of your gut microbiome by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Eating a diverse range of foods, including fermented food and high fibre foods, is key. Some gut bacteria friendly foods include:
- Sourdough bread
- Brussels sprouts
- Roquefort cheese
You should also limit alcohol and avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Other ways to improve the gut microbiome include reducing meat consumption, breastfeeding for at least six months, taking probiotic supplements and only taking antibiotics when completely necessary.
How Important is Your Gut Microbiome for Your Health?
Over the years, several studies have linked the health of our gut microbiome to our brain, heart and immune system health, as well as our resistance to a plethora of diseases and conditions such as diabetes, autism, anxiety and obesity. The gut microbiome has also been linked to how individuals respond to certain drugs including chemotherapy, how effectively we can fight off infections and diseases, and even how well we sleep.
We still don’t know for sure whether particular microbe species are important, or the diversity of the community as a whole. In some studies, particular strains of bacteria are linked to particular effects or conditions, while others have shown that the diversity of the microbiome or abundances of species is more important.
Health Checks in Melbourne
Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including nutritional therapy, physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.