Gut Health 101: How Your Gut Bacteria Protects Your Health

Gut Health 101: How Your Gut Bacteria Protects Your Health

Note: this edition of “Gut Health 101” is part 4 of an 8-part series on the microbiome.

For many of us when we hear the term “gut health” we simply think about digestion. Thankfully, gut health is much more than just breaking down the food and drink that you consume. This next section of my Gut Health 101 series on the microbiome will dive into a really neat function of your gut microbiota: vitamin and hormone synthesis.

So far we’ve covered a general overview of the microbiome, the relationship between your diet, digestion, and your microbiome, and what vitamins and hormones are made by your gut bacteria. In this post we’ll learn probably one of the neatest functions of your gut bacteria, your microbiome, performs. Let’s explore how your unique gut ecosystem protects you from infections.

Your ecosystem of microbes not only helps digest your food, but also keeps you from getting sick. Find out how!

We don’t like getting sick. Colds are annoying. Strep throat is a pain. Let’s not even get into more serious infections that can land immunocompromised individuals in the hospital. I’m sure you’re just like everyone else and try your best to keep germs away by washing your hands after using the bathroom, using hand sanitizer after touching public door handles, maybe even taking things a step further and having your own disinfecting wipes to wipe down doors or shopping carts. Oh, let’s not forget that 5-second rule with food! No matter where you are, if food leaves your plate and lands anywhere but your mouth it is no longer safe to eat.

What would you say to me if I told you that you are probably overdoing it?

Our personal ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa – our microbiome – that live in and on our bodies form a protective layer against other microbes that would do us harm. Think of it this way – it’s like a rug protecting a wood floor. You spill a glass of red wine on the rug, the rug gets stained, but the wood floor stays protected. Now, if the rug wasn’t well maintained, or you didn’t clean up the spill fast enough, then the wood may get stained as well.

Now we have microbes covering virtually every inch of our bodies. While that seems impressive and potentially gross, most of our microbes live inside of our digestive system. There they form a thick layer of microbial settlements. If you were to perform some fluorescent microscopy, you will see little to no space between one microbe and the next along the intestinal wall.


That density prevents opportunistic infections like Salmonella or C. difficile to take hold and make us sick. There are other bacteria that we naturally harbor in our intestines that has the *potential* to make us sick, E. coli for example, but are unable to because they are kept in check by the rest of the microbial ecosystem.

So how do we make sure our microbes help keep us healthy?

The key is diversity. The more diverse your ecosystem, the healthier your ecosystem becomes. It is the same way with our environment. The more diverse our environment the healthier it becomes. The diversity can falter due to poor diet, stress, and especially antibiotic use.

How do we keep our microbiome diverse? By eating a wide-range of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The greater the variety of our food intake the greater the variety of our microbial ecosystem. Please note though, a variety of food intake doesn’t mean you eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, and Taco Bell. That is all processed crap containing the same basic ingredients. No, you must eat *whole* vegetables and fruits. Foods that have an ingredient list of 1 item.

What is your biggest take-away in regards of how your microbial colony, your microbiome helps keep you healthy and strong against opportunistic infections like E. coli or Salmonella?

We still have four more units to go in our adventure into the microbiome. As we travel deeper, you will begin to realize just how influential our microbiome really is to our overall health. My hope is you begin to question what you do on a daily basis and start adjusting your habits in ways that will support and diversify your microbiome.

Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of your body’s Essential Nutrients list!

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Human Family by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Your ecosystem of microbes not only helps digest your food, but also keeps you from getting sick. Find out how!

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