Note: this edition of “Gut Health 101” is part 6 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, what vitamins and hormones are made by your gut bacteria, how your gut bacteria protect you from infections, and a short introduction to short chain fatty acids. In this post we’ll learn about another function of your gut bacteria: how they help train your immune system.
I talked a little about how your beneficial bacteria can crowd out and prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking hold and causing disease in one of the earlier parts of this series. What I want to begin covering today is a somewhat mysterious way these same bacteria help strengthen our own immune system.
You would think with the hundreds of millions of microbes that life in and on our body that we should be sick all. the. time. Yet we are generally healthy despite that fact. Why? Clearly there is some mutual reciprocity happening between us and our microbes. We provide a habitat for them to survive and thrive in, and they provide a ground cover against pathogenic microbes.
What scientists have found is when the microbiome is diverse, chronic health conditions are a rare occurrence. However, when the microbiome begins to become more monoclonal – or less diverse – issues like irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and even allergies occur at higher rates. A study done in mice confirms these associations.
Germ-free mice have a whole slew of immunological issues. Not only are they more susceptible to infections by certain bacteria, viruses, and pathogens, their immune responses to infections are also less robust. We’re still figuring out all the mechanisms that are involved with how our microbiome and gut bacteria fully interact with our own immune system.
Bottom line, we need a healthy and diverse colony to maintain optimal health. We do that by eating a wide variety of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. For some of us including organic, free-range meat is also a good addition to a healthy and balanced diet. We also keep that diversity high by stopping the abuse of antibiotics and antibacterial soaps and lotions. It is okay to get dirty every now and then!
In what ways can you keep your gut bacteria diverse in order to support a healthy immune system?
We have two 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 stay in the background, get up and show your face
Cause in this crazy world, we all have our place
What makes sense to many
Doesn’t make sense to all
Some are on the rise
Some are on the fall