Healthy and Happy Gut: Why is a strong Gut Microbiome needed?
Our body is full of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and collectively we call that the microbiome.
We've talked a lot about the microbiome and how important bacteria is to keep our gut happy and healthy, and today we're gonna dig further into how our gut actually protects us.
So first, let's review what the gut microbiome is.
Our gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more microorganisms, that live mostly in our large intestine, but can also be found on our skin and in other places of our body.
Now, out of all these microbes, bacteria has been the one that's been most studied, and what researchers have found is that there are more bacteria inside your body than human cells!
In fact, what they found is that there are roughly 40 trillion bacteria cells versus 30 trillion human cells.
So basically, we're a bunch of bacteria.
Now, these microbes (living organisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more) that are in our gut weigh roughly between two to five pounds! This is almost the same weight as your brain!
Further, there are nearly 1000 different species of different bacteria that help us function in all different ways. And today, we are going to talk more about this.
My name is Marcie Vaske, and I'm a functional medicine gut nutritionist. I see a lot of people who struggle with diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, so a lot of people with not very good bacteria.
If this sounds like you, or maybe someone you know or love, you can easily make your initial appointment here, and we can get started on your health journey together.
But if you prefer to start with some extra learning about the gut, you can download our free guide, which is 5 Ways to Improve your Gut Health.
Now, let's dig into our topic.
Why is a strong Gut Microbiome needed? Our Gut can PROTECT us!
Let's look at some ways that our gut can protect us.
A fun fact is, as soon as you were born, you started to build up your microbiome.
As soon as you passed through your mother's birth canal, microbes got to work, because you were exposed to all your mom's bacteria as you come out into the world.
Then, if you drank breast milk, you got exposed to not only probiotics (live bacteria), and prebiotics (food for the bacteria). Breast milk is so amazing for helping to support you and your gut, right away!
Typically, the first kind or strain of bacteria that will form in a baby's gut is bifidobacteria.
Now, as you continued to grow, your microbiome began to diversify. This just means that different strains (different types of bacteria) started to populate and get stronger.
How did you do this?
Through the foods you ate!
Especially through eating a variety of whole, real foods so that you could get plenty of fiber to feed your gut bacteria! The gut microbiome loves fibers!
These fibers break down into short chain fatty acids, which help to keep the integrity of our intestinal tract happy and healthy.
What are some ways that our happy, healthy gut can keep and protect us?
Imbalance or Some Gut Dysbiosis
Did you know that by having an imbalance of gut bacteria (gut dysbiosis), could actually affect your weight?
There have been several studies done on the correlation between your microbiome and your weight.
One really popular study was done on identical twins, where one twin was thin and another twin was obese. Upon looking further, the research found that the twins had starkly different microbiomes!
Certainly, this could have had many causes, from the foods they ate to their lifestyle, sleep and stress habits, and more, all of which can positively or negatively affect our gut microbiome, and then our weight.
Now another way that our gut can help protect us is through our heart health.
I created a video on cholesterol a few weeks ago, and I talked about how good gut health, or good bacteria in our gut, can help to increase HDL, which is the good cholesterol.
And in addition to the good HDL increase, it can also keep our triglycerides to a normal level.
So if you have some opportunistic ("bad") bacteria in your gut, you might have higher blood sugars and dysregulated insulin, and due to this, you might start to gain weight without understanding why.
Research has actually found different blood sugar responses in different people, due to the type of bacteria in the gut!
So one person could eat a sweet potato and have a normal blood sugar response, and the next person could eat that same sweet potato, and have their blood sugars go higher than would be normal.
All from the type of bacteria in their gut!
Now, another way that our gut can protect us is by supporting our brain health and mood!
And one such way is through the neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Did you know that we make about 90 to 95% of the neurotransmitter serotonin, in our intestinal tract?
But to do this, we must have a strong and healthy gut microbiome!
A healthy gut microbiome can help to support your body in making enough serotonin, dopamine, and GABA - all of which will then travel through the vagus nerve to your brain, which will help support you to have a calmer mind, more joy through serotonin, less food cravings, and better focus.
And so it's so critical that, if you are struggling with anxiety, that you look into how your gut might be contributing, as the gut-brain connection is quite powerful for either helping to improve anxiety, or making it worse!
So you might now be wondering: How is MY gut microbiome? Is it healthy?
One way to find this out, would be to run some functional lab testing. Our clinic can help with this.
But also, you can have an idea based off of your symptoms!
Do you have gut health issues? Excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, autoimmune issues, etc.?
Or does everything seem to be working well?
If you'd like to know how to improve the gut microbiome, here are some foundational tips:
Eat A Whole Foods Diet!
To start, like I say all the time, make sure you're eating a whole foods diet with lots of diversity!
This means eating a variety of proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, because all those components are food for our bacteria, and will help to support our healthy bacteria to thrive!
And make sure to include fermented foods! Fermented foods are packed with probiotics, to help support your microbiome.
Include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and Kefir. If choosing yogurt or Kefir, just make sure to check the added sugars. Choosing an unsweetened option and adding your own, fresh or frozen fruit, is always the best choice.
Which brings us to our next topic:
Avoid Artificial Sugars
Now, artificial sugars can cause lots of symptoms, and one thing that research has shown in gut health, is that artificial sugars can actually increase the growth of pathogenic bacteria or opportunistic bacteria.
So it is best to cut out artificial sweeteners for good!
They can be found in a variety of foods, including diet sodas, and even low or no fat items. Water flavorings tend to also have artificial sweeteners, as well as some protein powders.
Take A Probiotic
Now, of course, all the things I noted are going to help to increase good bacteria in your gut, but if you want a safety measure or feel you might need more support, you can always look into taking a probiotic.
A few months ago, Katie did a great video on probiotics and it gives you kind of a nice idea of how to take them, what to take, and what they're all about.
Here are those video links, to help you navigate this often overwhelming space:
When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?
5 Possible Side Effects of Probiotics
Prebiotics, Probiotics, Synbiotics, and Postbiotics: What are the Differences?
If you'd rather have a short cut, though, then I would like to invite you to schedule an appointment with our clinic. We do accept some insurances, so you might get full coverage!
The link to schedule is below.
We can review your medical history and current symptoms, and work with you to create a personalize nutrition and supplement plan to help you improve your symptoms and feel better.
Sometimes you don't need to take a probiotic right away, but other times, it could be helpful. We'll help you navigate this.
Ultimately, as you now can see, having a healthy gut and microbiome is so important for the health of our body, from brain health and heart health.
If you'd like to review the information discussed in this blog, you can watch it in video form here: