Microbiome Basics: helping the bugs that help us
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
Our bodies contain about 3 times as many foreign microbiome cells as human cells. And, this number changes a lot depending on our bowel habits (1).
The microbiome helps us make and absorb vitamins and minerals and helps balance our blood sugar.
The microbiome plays a large role in regulating our immune and allergy responses, balancing our weight, and regulating our emotions.
For most of us, there are a few key things we can do to optimize our gut bugs and improve our overall health and wellness.
TIP #1 - Probiotics and fermented foods
Probiotics alter our intestinal communities and actually curb the growth of pathogens. They do this by strengthening our immune response and making important intestinal defense proteins (2). Try incorporating a variety of these products into your diet, keeping in mind to take it slow if you’re new to this. Too much at once can make the gut bugs a little too excited, if you know what I mean… Here are some ideas:
TIP #2 - Eat plants
A diet high in fruits and vegetables is linked to healthy and robust microbiome populations (3). A good goal is 40 different kinds of fruits or vegetables per week. This sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t that far out of reach for most of us.
For example, consider a salad: if you use a mixed greens base then add some carrot, cucumber and chopped herbs, you are likely getting close to 10 in just one meal!
Additionally, having some green grapes one day and some red grapes the next totally counts as 2 different fruits.
Try counting for yourself one week and see how close you get.
A good trick is to “eat the rainbow”
TIP #3 - Move that bod
Research suggests exercise can increase the species and diversity of beneficial bacteria in our gut (4). Aim for 30 minuets of cardio 5 days per week or 150 minutes per week. This is also one of the best ways to protect your heart and lower cholesterol.
Pro tip: find a type of movement that is fun and and change it up often.
Here are a few patient favorites:
tennis, squash, pickle ball lessons
after dinner walks
start a plank challenge with your bff
Yoga with Adriene (<-- free videos!)
(1) Sender, Ron et al. “Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body.” PLoS biology vol. 14,8 e1002533. 19 (2016).
(2) Thomas, Carissa M, and James Versalovic. “Probiotics-host communication: Modulation of signaling pathways in the intestine.” Gut microbes vol. 1,3 (2010):.
(3) David, Lawrence A et al. “Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome.” Nature vol. 505,7484 (2014.
(4) Monda, Vincenzo et al. “Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2017 (2017.