Sunday, 5 February 2017

Building a Better Microbiome

The human microbiome is a combination of micro-organisms, (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa etc) that exist in and on the surfaces of the human body. The majority of these organisms reside within the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and weigh up to 2 kg of the GIT mass alone. You can imagine that your microbiome is like a complex eco-system made up of many different species both symbiotic and pathogenic, many of which will be unique to you and your social group.

Alterations in the gut microbiota in emerging evidence has been linked to brain and neurological function, psychiatric symptoms, obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and altered immune function, to list a few.  This is referred as the gut-brain-immune axis.

Your GIT is responsible for a diverse and well orchestrated complex of functions such as, nutrient absorption, production of vitamins and enzymes, neurotransmitter production and healthy brain chemical signalling and around 85% of your immune function, just to name a few.   

Because the human microbiome plays a significant role in whole health more attention should be directed towards it beyond simply re-inoculating the gut during and after antibiotic use.  A good way to get started on this is to establish what shape your GIT is in.  Tests nowadays, and there are numerous types from stool analysis, food intolerance testing and patient questionnaires can determine population numbers of good, bad and opportunistic gut flora, gut germ overgrowth, infectious pathogens, excess fermentation to name just a few.   This approach would play a central role in determining what your body needs as opposed to the one size fits all approach.

Diet certainly plays a significant role also.  Refined foods such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol can have adverse effects on your gut microbiome and will tend to feed the pathogenic species, so limit their consumption and keep your diet rich in whole foods, organic seasonal produce to reduce residues of pesticides and antibiotics and regular consumption of fermented foods will support your precious microbiome to thrive.  

Similarly, using natural-based household and body cleansers can help avoid unnecessary collateral damage caused by harmful chemical cleaning agents.   It may be worth noting that the FDA recently banned the use of antibacterial hand sanitisers due to health concerns and the evidence that most anti-bacterial chemicals are no better at cleaning hands than regular soap.   

If you’re suffering physical, mental / emotional, immunological or metabolic health concerns  taking
an individual approach to rebalancing your gut microbiome may yield great rewards.  Consider it as a complementary and integrative approach to your whole health that will serve you well and enhance your overall wellbeing.