Fun Fact: You Are More Bacteria than You Are Cells!
Now that I’ve caught your attention - Yes, that is indeed a fact. Scientists today estimate that the average human male has around 30 trillion human cells and 39 trillion bacteria (a 1:1.3 ratio) - but that’s if you’re an average healthy adult. Whoa! That’s a lot of microorganisms.
But let’s get to the first main point of this article: what is the microbiome? By definition, the microbiome is a complex, naturally-occurring community of flora (bacteria) that resides within our bodies. Why is it important? It is our internal ecosystem and is a crucial part of maintaining good health.
Now don’t freak out! Not all microorganisms are bad. In fact, some are really, really, really good for you! Science is continuously discovering the importance of this internal environment, and have so far found strong benefits relating to our immune system, digestive system, hormones, and brain function, to only name a few. In fact, our individual microbiomes are sometimes called our “genetic footprint” because they may effect our unique DNA, hereditary factors, predisposition to disease, body type, and much more. And these little helpers are found not only in our bodies but everywhere in our surroundings, on nearly every surface we touch and every environment we come into contact with. It’s even been said by some researchers that up to 90% of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome. I’d say that means these tiny bugs are important!
Throughout our lives, we shape the health of our microbiome through food choices, sleep, exposure, stress, and much more. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself! The health of your microbiome has roles that include:
- Helping with hormone production, like serotonin
- Extracting nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats, antioxidants, etc.) from our foods
- Managing appetite and body weight
- Digesting fiber
- Supporting our mood, motivation, and cognitive health
- Keeping our immune systems healthy and responsive
- Repairing damaged tissues and injuries, and more!
How do you improve the state of your body’s internal ecosystem? These good microbes found in your body are often referred to as “probiotics,” and in my opinion, providing your body more of these are one the most important things you can do to better your health, not only as a supplement but as a food. If you look at cultural dietary habits, you see probiotics everywhere. After all, where does bread come from? Beer? Wine? Kefir? Yogurt? Cheese? Kimchi? Pickles? The list goes on and on! You can also make some lifestyle changes:
- Reducing exposure to chemicals (triclosan is a great one to get rid of) in household and body products
- Finding a meditative practice to help with stress
- Getting a full night's rest
- Exercising regularly
- Choosing foods that are nourishing to your body
- Not being afraid of playing in the dirt (my favorite!)
If this has struck your curiosity - there’s loads more information out there! I encourage you to continue to discover this fascinating ecosystem. And you’re in luck! There’s a huge scientifically-based collective research project dedicated to learning more about the microbiome.
Visit http://hmpdacc.org/ to check it out!