Do you have bacteria, viruses, yeasts and parasites in your gut? It may sound like a nightmare, but this collection of germs is actually necessary for health, experts say.
Elizabeth Corvin, deputy dean for strategic and innovative research at Columbia University School of Nursing, said the microbiome is made up of millions of organisms that live in and around us. And a healthy microbiome is a crucial part of good health.
It affects the immune system and synthesizes important vitamins in the gut, Corvin added. These organisms also offer protection, heal wounds, eliminate bad pathogens, and help some drugs work better, ”said Shiena Kruikshank, a professor in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester in the UK.
Taking care of your microbiome can help with many conditions, including allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases, Kruikshank said.
So where do you start? How do you get a better microbiome?
“A good microbiome is a different microbiome,” Kruikshank said. “Many diseases are associated with a lack of diversity.”
He and Corvin shared some easy ways to get a variety of microbes in your life.
Looking for an excuse to adopt a dog? Here.
Studies show that dogs share the microbiome with the household, Corvin said. Growing up with a dog reduces the risk of asthma and allergies, says Kruikshank.
And taking care of a pet is a great way to exchange bacteria, he added. Only animals can help.
“There are also microbiomes in our buildings and in the air around us,” Kruikshank said. “Rural microbiomas are a little more diverse and they could be better for our lung health.”
Sorry, cats are humans, but Corvin said dogs seem to be the most beneficial pets for the microbiome.
One of the most important health factors for a microbiome is how much of your gut is leaking or permeable.
Everyone’s intestines are somewhat permeable, but some people’s intestines flow more than others, Corvin said. It is good if healthy and beneficial microorganisms leak out of your gut, he added. However, if you release more virulent microorganisms, the immune cells waiting outside can become active and cause inflammation.
So how do you deal with stress?
“High cortisol, one of our stress hormones, actually increases the flow of your gut,” Corvin said. “If you’re living under severe stress, your gut may leak.”
According to experts, a high-fiber, varied diet is important for a healthy microbiome.
The microbiota loves foods high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, Corvin said. Fiber is not well absorbed in the stomach and is broken down more by microorganisms and it passes through the intestines, he added.
Fermented foods can be beneficial because they often provide live bacteria, Kruikshank said. However, although some studies have shown effectiveness, it is difficult to know for sure whether you will get beneficial bacteria from the fermented food you eat, because batches can vary.
Kruikshank said he was concerned about the microbiome of people who restricted their diet because they restricted their diet or relied on fatty but convenient foods.
“If you have a different diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, it allows you to eat different things and enjoy them,” Kruikshank said. “The simple thing we can do is eat a good, balanced diet.”
Could be. Probiotics are often the first thing to think about when it comes to gastrointestinal health, but there is evidence of how effective they are, Kruikshank said.
They are often recommended after antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria that can be killed along with the bad drugs.
Some studies show that they help a little, but others show that probiotics are not as effective as many think, he said.