Alright, quick question to start things off: When I say the word “bacteria,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Probably nothing good. For many, the thought of bacteria brings to mind sickness, disease, and decay. And while that isn’t necessarily incorrect, it also isn’t entirely true.
Sure: Bacteria plays a major role in sickness. But what many people don’t understand is that bacteria also plays a vital role in our health and well-being. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s zoom out for a moment.
At any given point in time, you’re carrying about three pounds of microbes (something to keep in mind next time you step on the scale). Three pounds might not seem like a lot, but let’s put this in perspective: That equates to tens of trillions of outside microorganisms calling your body home.
In fact, these outside bacterial invaders actually outnumber your native human cells ten-to-one. So, at the end of the day, you could say …
You’re really more bacteria than human.
Okay, okay, calm down. Breathe. Don’t freak out yet.
Believe it or not, this is good news. We’ll get to the “why” shortly but, for now, let’s start zooming back in and focusing on one particular body part. No, not that one: Your gut.
In your gut alone, there are over 1,000 species of unique bacteria; and these bacteria—both the good and bad—are what we call your gut microbiota. And believe it or not, this small part of your body is the epicenter of your physical and mental health.
Let me explain.
Brass Tacks: What is the Gut Microbiota?
Let’s start with the basics: Your body is made up of a number of different microbiotas, such as your skin microbiota or oral microbiota. Each of these microbiota contributes to the greater whole, known as the human microbiome.
Seem a little abstract?
Imagine each microbiota as a separate ecosystem on the “planet” that is the human microbiome.
With me? Let’s move on. Your gut microbiota makes up the majority of your microbiome, and is comprised of all the microbes living in your gastrointestinal tract, including …
- Viruses, and (in much smaller numbers)
- Archea, protozoa, helminths, and fungi.
So what determines what lives in our guts? Interestingly enough, about one-third of microbe “composition” in your gut is common to most people. But a whopping two-thirds is specific to each individual, and influenced by a number of factors (such as genetics, diet, and lifestyle).
So I guess you could say your gut microbiota is as unique to you as your fingerprint.
The Role of the Gut Microbiota in Health & Wellness
Alright, so you’ve got a ton of bugs living your gut. But … What do they actually do? They aren’t just taking up space rent-free, right?
Not at all. Until recently, their sole purpose was thought to be digestion; and while it is true that gut bacteria play a pivotal role in the digestion process, limiting their role to glorified vultures does them a huge disservice.
As recent studies have found, your gut flora plays a major role not just in digestive health, but in nearly every aspect of health. For example: According to one study, the gut microbiota is thought to play a major role—either as the source of or as the solution to—a number of health conditions, including:
- Celiac disease,
- Irritable bowel syndrome, and
- Colorectal cancers.
Pretty revolutionary, right? And honestly, that’s just scratching the surface. It seems more and more common diseases are being linked to gut health every day.
So how exactly does your gut health contribute to your overall health? At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. Your gut microbiota houses both good bacteria and bad, and your overall well-being is largely determined by population control. In other words:
When you have more good bacteria than bad, you generally have a healthy microbiome. When you have more bad bacteria than good, you generally have an unhealthy microbiome.
And by bringing balance to your gut, you can bring healing to a number of common ailments, such as those I mentioned above as well as anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, and even depression.
I don’t think you realize how amazing that is! Now, let’s talk about how you can restore that careful balance and begin healing your body by healing your gut.
How is the Gut Microbiota Developed?
Where does gut health come from, anyway? Interestingly enough, it starts on day one: The health of the microbiome begins at birth and is either strengthened or weakened in infancy through early childhood.
Throughout the first few years of your life on this earth, your microbiome changes rapidly based on a multitude of factors. but believe it or not, it begins to reach maturity and show signs of adult bacterial patterns by the age of three.
Three! Seriously: How much attention were you paying to your gut health at age three? I thought so. But let’s see if we can get an estimated reading on your gut health by looking at your formative years. Here’s a few factors that play a major role in developing your gut microbiota:
- Cesarean vs natural birth: Cesarean births, while sometimes necessary, cripple your gut health from day one.
- Breastfed vs formula: Babies rely on their mother’s milk to lay a strong foundation of good bacteria.
- Early rounds of antibiotics: While occasionally necessary, antibiotics wreck havoc even on adult gut health; they can completely stunt a still-developing microbiota.
- Regular childhood sickness: Major or regular illnesses throughout childhood can dramatically limit the development of good bacteria.
- Overall diet: If you grew up on a sugar-heavy diet, your microbiome was hindered from the start.
Of course, that’s just a start and may not paint the entire picture. If you’d like a more detailed assessment of your gut health, I’d love a chance to talk with you one-on-one. Click here to set up a free consultation!
How to Improve Your Gut Health by Restoring Balance to Your Microbiome
Now that’s all well and good, but most of us probably aren’t three-year-olds anymore. So regardless of what happened in our past, what can we do today to restore our gut health tomorrow?
The good news is, there’s quite a lot you can do; and it all starts with prevention. By far the most advantageous “hacks” to healing your gut (and keeping it healthy) are preventative measures, such as avoiding:
- Prescription drugs,
- Refined sugars,
- Artificial sweeteners,
- Refined vegetable oils,
- Pesticides, and
- Fluoride, Chlorine, and other toxins in your water.
Granted: Completely avoiding all of those isn’t always realistic all of the time. But at the very least, take steps to prevent them whenever possible, because prevention is the best place to start.
That said, there are proactive steps you can take to heal your gut microbiota as well, and it’s all focused around—you guessed it—diet. For example, here’s a handful of gut health super-foods I highly recommend working into your daily routine:
- Healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, nuts, ghee, and salmon),
- Bone Broth,
- Fermented dairy (kefir and yogurt),
- Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sour kraut, and pickles),
- Omegas from plant-based supplements (these are a form of healthy fats),
- Alkalized water,
- Prebiotics, and
- Anti-Fingal’s such as grapefruit and grape seed extract.
A quick note: If that list feels overwhelming, it wasn’t my intent. If you want a good place to start, simply focus on incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your diet and supplementation routines. Learn more about probiotics by clicking here, and prebiotics by clicking here.
Even if that’s all you do (in addition to some of the preventative measures above), I think you’ll start to experiences the benefits of a happy, healthy, balanced gut which can include …
- More energy,
- Better sleep,
- Faster metabolism,
- Higher immunity,
- Less brain fog and daily drowsiness, and
- Reduced risk of all those aforementioned diseases.
If that all sounds amazing, that’s because it is. Healthier does in fact equal happier, my friends.
New Beginnings: Bacteria, Gut Health, and You
Alright, we’re about to wrap things up but first I’ve got to ask: Knowing what you know now, how do you feel about the word “bacteria?”
Not so scary now, is it? In fact, you may even have a new-found appreciation for those gross-but-effective little bugs. Here’s what I want you to take away:
The ecosystem in your gut is either helping you or harming you. It can be a fount of health, or a the breeding grounds for disease. At the end of the day, your gut health is a reflection of your decisions.
And now that you’re armed with the knowledge to make healthy decisions, I’m excited what the future holds for you. That said, sometimes knowledge alone isn’t enough.
I’ll be the first to admit that creating lasting, consistent change can feel daunting. Even overwhelming. I know, because I’ve been there. And if I can spare you the painful and expensive trial-and-error process that was my journey to better gut health, I’d love to do just that.
I think this article was a start, but I’d like to offer you something more. If you’re serious about healing your gut but feel like you don’t know where to start, I want to talk to you. Click here to schedule a totally-free, no-pressure one-on-one conversation to answer any questions you might have.
Until then, here’s to the best health and the most happiness!