Introduction to the Microbiome
The human gut microbiome makes up between three and five pounds of our body weight, as it is home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and microscopic species. The microbiome is the entire amount of microbes that live within the human body. Specifically, within the gut, there are almost 1,000 different species of bacteria which all have different jobs within the body.
Thousands of clinical studies show the connection between microbiome health and other organs in the body. Abundance in certain bacteria is beneficial such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli while pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, Listeria, E. Coli) can be damaging to our bodies if it becomes unbalanced.
The composition of a healthy gut microbiome relies on a healthy diet full of variety and optimal and diverse nutrition. Poor nutrition or a diet lacking in variety can have a significant and detrimental impact on the health of your microbiome. Our microbiome is similar to our fingerprints; it is unique and no two are the same.
The health of our digestive system comes down to the diversity of different beneficial species, the consumption of foods which are high-quality and include prebiotics, probiotics and fiber.
Within our digestive system, there are different neighborhoods of the intestines which are home to different varieties and ratios of microorganisms. Including a variety of colorful foods which are abundant in different nutrients and pro and prebiotic species is essential to maintaining that diversity. Because our microbiome is the control center of our health; a higher diversity count has been linked with improved nutrient absorption, improved immune system function<link to immune article>, balanced moods, improved skin health<link to skin health article>, and can lead to better weight management.
Probiotics and prebiotics
When we think of the microbiome, probiotics and prebiotics are often the first words that come to mind; probiotics provide new beneficial bacteria to the gut while prebiotics lay the foundation for healthy bacteria to continue to grow in the digestive system.
The way food is processed and prepared can play a huge role in the bioavailability of the nutrients and ultimately influence the way we absorb these foods. In fact, our own bacteria can produce certain nutrients such as vitamin B12 and the fat-soluble vitamin K. Reaching for fresh foods over processed, canned formulas can ensure you are getting the highest source of nutrition, which packs the most punch.
Incorporating a few servings of fiber-rich vegetables and beans/legumes into your blend can be a great way to feed your microbiome while keeping you full. When we include fiber on a regular basis, our gut bacteria ferment fiber and turns it into energy, otherwise known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These fatty acids play an important role in stabilizing blood sugar, reducing hunger, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and helps maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. High fiber foods include: broccoli, artichokes, peas, leafy greens, beans, and lentils.
Incorporating whole foods into the diet can ensure you are receiving necessary nutrients in their purest forms. For people with feeding tubes, a blenderized diet can provide high quality nutrients and include fiber and prebiotics which will support the microbiome, brain and immune system.