Not a day goes by without a paper about our gut microbiome, the 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit our gut and the rest of our body. Increasing research suggests that the colonies of bacteria and other microbes in our gut may play a very important role in health and disease.

What is the gut microbiome?
It is the colonies of various microbes that reside in your gut that are unique to you. They talk to your genes and are active in many biological functions, including the immune system, neurological and metabolic systems, detoxification and gut integrity.

How is it established?
A baby acquires the microbiota similar to its mother’s as it passes through her vaginal canal, but if the baby is born by C-section, it acquires the microbiota of its mother’s skin. Early life exposure to breast or formula feeding, antibiotics, physical environment, stress and use of probiotics all affect the diversity, abundance and balance of the microbiota. From childhood to advanced age, our diet, overuse of antibiotics and other drugs, stress and selective enrichment with pre- and probiotics play a big role in the balance. We often talk about “good” or “bad” bacteria, but the term is inaccurate because what is necessary is the proper balance of the beneficial bacteria.

What conditions are associated with an imbalanced microbiome?
This is a sampling but not an exhaustive list: At the gut level, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric cancer, lymphoma and recurrent C.Difficle infection. At a systemic level, autism, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, fatty liver, obesity and metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

How can you optimize your microbiome?
Lifestyle is the foundation for a healthy microbiota. Diet strongly influences your mirobiota. What you eat and your stress level are key factors in maintaining a healthy microbiota.

1.Your diet strongly influences your microbiome. Include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir and soluble fiber in your meal plan. Avoid processed foods, high bad fats and excessive sugars. Go to the Nutritional Corner on Page 6 for a list of prebiotic rich foods.
2. Support with selective probiotics if your diet is less than ideal and especially during and after a course of antibiotics. Join us for the seminar to learn more about choosing probiotics.
3. Avoid unknowingly harming yourself by ingesting genetically engineered foods and animal meats that are fed low-dose antibiotics.
4. Avoid the indiscriminate use of chemicals such as antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (the likes of nexium and omeprazole) and NSAIDS that can create imbalance in the microbiome.
5. Manage your stress.