human microbiome

A Look Into the Human Microbiome

Most people have heard about the human microbiome, otherwise known as the collective bacteria that live in and on our bodies. Most of this bacteria is actually good for us and helps our bodies function more effectively.

However, not everyone has the same microbiota makeup. In recent years, a major topic of nutrition research is how our bacteria (in particular, the bacteria in our gut) can affect not only digestion, but also appetite, risk of disease, and psychological disorders, as well as how we might be able to improve our microbiota [1].

Healthy bacteria is necessary for several body functions, including: converting fiber into short-chain fatty acids; synthesizing certain vitamins; and supporting our immune system [2]. While much of our gut bacteria is established by age 2 (as a result of how we are born, what we eat, where we live, and other environmental influences), there has been some evidence that our microbiota can adapt to new situations.

Getting Your Probiotics

One treatment that can be helpful is taking a probiotic supplement to establish a better balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Research has shown that individuals with IBD and obesity have higher levels of harmful bacteria compared to healthy, lean individuals [1].

Similarly, research on individuals with mood disorders has confirmed that excessive stress can disrupt our gut microbes and result in digestive dysfunction and irregular appetite.

Some preliminary research has shown that anti-inflammatory diets (i.e. diets high in produce, whole grains, healthy fats, and low in processed foods) can positively improve these conditions, but more research is needed to conclusively establish a connection.

In any case, eating probiotic-rich foods (such as yogurt or kefir) or taking a probiotic supplement is encouraged for everyone to establish a healthy microbiota, especially for those who experience any of the chronic conditions mentioned above.

Certain strains of bacteria are more helpful for certain conditions than others, but good strains to look for in supplements include: Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces.

There are an abundance of different probiotic supplements, but some of the top rated from Consumer Reports include: Align, Ultimate Flora, and BlueBiotics Ultimate Care. See the links below for more information on probiotics, or e-mail me for help determining what supplement is best for you!

Once you have a healthy balance of gut microbes, what should you be feeding them to keep them active and healthy? Find out in next week’s #NutritionUnwrapped tip!

References

[1] Foroutan, R. (2015, April 28). Microbiome: The garden within. Retrieved from: https://foodandnutrition.org/may-june-2015/microbiome-garden-within/

[2] Authority Nutrition (n.d.). How to choose the best probiotic supplement. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-probiotic-supplement#section1

[3] Roe, J. (2017, June 29). Top five probiotics of 2017. Retrieved from: http://consumershealthreport.com/probiotic-supplements/bestprobiotics/

Leave a comment