blog Jun 28, 2024

This might come as a shock, but did you know that 90% of the cells in our bodies aren’t even human? That’s right—our bodies are teeming with trillions of bacteria, and they play a crucial role in our health, hormones, and happiness.

Now, before you start imagining yourself as a walking bacteria farm and start reaching for the santizer (something you really should stay away from, a column for another day), let’s dive into what this really means and why it’s so important.

Our bodies are home to a vast community of microorganisms, collectively known as the microbiome. These bacteria outnumber our human cells by about ten to one, and while that might sound a bit alarming, it’s actually something to be celebrated. These tiny tenants are essential for our survival and well-being. They help us digest food, produce essential vitamins, regulate our immune system, and even influence our mood and behavior.

So, how do we take care of our crucial critter companions? The answer lies in what we feed them. What you feed, grows. Just like any living organism, bacteria need food to thrive, and what we choose to put into our bodies will either feed the beneficial bacteria or the harmful ones.

When we consume a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, we’re feeding our good bacteria the nutrients they need to flourish. These foods are high in fiber, which is the favorite food of good bacteria. Fiber passes through our digestive system largely undigested until it reaches the colon, where our friendly bacteria get to work breaking it down, producing short-chain fatty acids that have numerous health benefits.

On the flip side, diets high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats feeds the harmful bacteria, leading to an imbalance in our microbiome. This imbalance, known as dysbiosis (where bad bacteria considerably outnumber the good), creates inflammation which then contributes to a range of health issues ranging from digestive challenges and autoimmune issues, to obesity, metabolic diseaases and mental health disorders.

One of the most fascinating aspects of our microbiome is called the gut brain axis. What a lot of folks (and even some doctors!) don't realize, is that all of those conditions and and then some can all be improved by looking at what's not working in the gut. Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain” because it contains a complex network of neurons and produces many of the same neurotransmitters as our brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and melatonin . Fun fact, about 90% of your serotonin—a key hormone that stabilizes your mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness—is produced in the gut.

This means that the state of your gut can directly impact your mood and mental health. A healthy, balanced microbiome can enhance your mood and cognitive function, while an imbalanced microbiome can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Feeding your gut the right foods not only promotes physical health but also supports a healthy mind.

The microbiome also plays a significant role in regulating hormones and metabolism. Certain bacteria help produce and metabolize hormones like estrogen, insulin, and cortisol. When your microbiome is in balance, these processes run smoothly, but when it’s out of balance, it can lead to hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders.

For example, an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is characterized by insulin resistance and elevated levels of androgens. Similarly, dysbiosis (more bad bacteria than good) has been associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

So, how can we ensure that we’re feeding our microbiome for optimal health, hormones, and happiness? Here are six practical tips:

  1. Eat a Diverse Diet: Aim for a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Different foods provide different types of fiber and nutrients that support a diverse microbiome. I recently challenged my clients to aim for consuming 30 plants in a week just for this reason.

  2. Include Fermented Foods: Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can help feed the good bacteria in your microbiome. Note that these foods help feed the good bacteria, but they alone will not restore the microbiome.

  3. Avoid Processed Foods: Minimize your intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and unhealthy fats, which can feed harmful bacteria and contribute to dysbiosis.

  4. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water supports digestion, keeps things moving and helps maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

  5. Exercise Regularly: Physical activity has been shown to promote a healthy microbiome, in addition to its many other health benefits.

  6. Manage Stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact your microbiome, so make time for relaxation and stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature.

Bottom line, your relationship with the bacteria in your body is a symbiotic one—what and how you feed them directly impacts your health, hormones, and happiness. By nourishing your microbiome with the right foods and making healthier lifestyle choices, we can support your overall well-being and unlock the full potential of your mind-body connection.

So, next time you’re making a meal or a snack, remember you’re not just feeding the 10 percent that is you; you’re also feeding the trillions of bacteria that make up the other 90 percent and call your body home.

For more information on creating a healthy, balanced lifetstyle, check out Tania's website.


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