My elevator guide to the microbiome

I don’t endeavour here to do a huge in-depth piece on what is a really complex topic that I’ve been studying for three years now (frankly, I don’t have the time). But since gut health is becoming more and more of a “big deal”, I’ve put together an elevator guide to the microbiome, a bunch of facts you need to know, nicely packaged in bite-sized form to tell your mates, Gran, postman or hairdresser.

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1. News just in: The microbiome is responsible for most contemporary illness.

2. The microbiome is the bacteria living inside you and on your skin – bacteria, viruses, archaea, eukaryotes and fungi included.

3. 95 per cent of microbiota sits in your gut – home to approximately 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) micro organisms. That’s 10 times more than the number of cells in the human body.

4. Your gut microbiome comprises 80 per cent of your immune system. 

5. You don’t get your bacteria until after you’re born. We acquire most of our microbiome by the age of three.

6. Our microbiota is influenced by: Mum (birth and breastfeeding), the environment (dirt, animals, other humans), the foods we eat and other stuff we consume (alcohol, medication etc).

7. A greater bacteria diversity means less risk of allergies. So, oh sweet irony, our current obsession with cleanliness is actually making us sick. Please don’t ever use anti-bacterial handwash, for instance.

8. A microbiome is considered healthy when there’s the right balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria.

9. A healthy microbiome promotes normal gastrointestinal function, protects from infection and regulates metabolism.

10. Messed up microbiomes are linked to a range of modern day diseases, including autism, obesity, depression, anxiety, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease. Here’s some recent research.

11. Depression? Anxiety? 95 per cent of serotonin (your happy chemical) is produced in your gut.

12. What can cause an unbalanced microbiome? Chronic stress and infections, antibiotics and other medications, diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar (!) and processed foods, dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut.

13. The state of our microbiome also contributes to the ability to properly digest and absorb the nutrients from the food we eat.

14. Probiotics fuel the good gut bugs and can be acquired from certain foods (yoghurt, kefir, fermented foods etc).

15. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease (IBD) have shown markedly different microbiomes than healthy populations.

16. Dirt strengthens the immune system. A little dirt on veggies provides soil-based organisms which, through a process of gene swapping with the microbiome, have been found to strengthen the immune system.

17. Sugar is one of your microbiome’s worst enemies. It promotes the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and hampers the growth of the good stuff.

18. Artificial  sweeteners are just as crap. Aspartame is converted to formaldehyde (an embalming fluid) in your body. Your liver can’t clear this toxin normally, so it remains lodged, activates inflammation and can lead to autoimmune issues. Ditto sugar alcohols – they’re indigestible and will disrupt the functioning of the lining of the gut.

19. Eating gelatin helps restore your gut lining, which is beneficial for the development of a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your microbiome.

Do you have any other facts to add to the list?

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