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How Your Microbiome Impacts Your Overall Health

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Did you know there are trillions of living microorganisms in your body, mainly in your gut?

From the day you were brought to life, through birth, breastfeeding, and exposure to the outside world, you began building the microorganism ecosystem that now resides in your gut. Research shows that these microbes, aka microbiome, can affect a lot of how you experience your daily life; emotions, brain functioning, performance, weight, and even your food choices. Let’s dive deep into how you can improve your gut health and live a better life!

What exactly is the “Gut Microbiome”?

The microbiome is a community of trillions of living organisms in your gut. It consists of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that live symbiotically in a healthy person. Your microbiome starts from birth, depending mostly on your mother’s gut health and breast milk. Things that affect your microbiome include environment, medications like antibiotics, stress, sleep, inactivity, and diet. If your microbe population is low, you become more vulnerable to chronic diseases such as leaky gut, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.

The bacteria in your gut break down the food your body can’t digest and they also absorb essential nutrients, boost the immune system, improve your mood and well-being, and protect you against harmful germs. In some studies, microbiomes of healthy mice were transplanted into stressed mice. The stressed mice then showed fewer anxiety symptoms. A healthy microbiota can help you manage your emotions more effectively, thus improving the quality of your life.

Interestingly, you got your first dose of microbes at birth when you traveled through the birth canal (if that was how you were born), which is chock-full of bacteria, then picked up more while breastfeeding. So, be grateful if you were exposed to these living organisms as a baby. Some evidence suggests that births by Cesarean section may impact a baby’s immune system, causing food allergies, asthma, and other diseases in the early years. The seeds of your microbiome are determined by your mother, but it is the food that you eat that can change it.

Now that you have an understanding of what a microbiome is and how it impacts your health, we can jump into how you can create a vigorous and diverse microbiome.

The keys to creating a healthy microbiome

Bacteria feed on fiber and polyphenols, and when you don’t feed them, they die, and you get sick or vulnerable to disease.

1. Understand what feeds microbiology

Nature is wise, and it provides you with the fuel your microbiome needs to keep you healthy and immune to disease without the need for supplements.

Different types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber: citrus, legumes, bananas, and dark leafy greens.

  • Insoluble fiber: nuts, potatoes, cauliflower, coconut, seeds, and whole grains.

  • Resistant starch: unripe bananas/mangoes, lentils, cooked and cooled rice/potatoes, and cashews.

  • Probiotics: These are the good guys. They are live bacteria and yeasts that naturally reside in your body. Probiotic-rich foods are listed in tip #3.

Including these different types of fiber and probiotics in your diet can be a game changer. But these are not the only nutrients that make your microbiome flourish. Are you familiar with polyphenols?

2. Eat lots of polyphenol-rich foods

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. They are considered to be the best antioxidants for the human body; they can support microorganisms in your digestive system, gut health, and longevity. Antioxidants are known to fight free radicals, which cause diseases like cancer, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and others.

Polyphenol-rich foods:

  • Dark chocolate

  • Berries

  • Pomegranates

  • Cinnamon

  • Nuts

  • Black and green tea.

  • Flax and chia seeds

  • Turmeric

  • Herbs

  • Colorful vegetables

  • Purple potatoes

  • Fruits

  • Red wine

  • Olive oil

3. Incorporate fermented foods into your diet

The best science-based way to improve your internal flora is by eating fermented foods daily. These foods are teeming with helpful probiotic bacteria that can enhance the diversity of your gut ecosystem and your overall health. Fermentation is a way to preserve food that was adopted before the invention of refrigeration. No wonder why our ancestors were healthier than we are in the 21st century! Remember, you cannot change your genes, but you can change your microbiome with food, therefore experiencing life differently.

List of fermented foods:

  • Kefir

  • Yogurt

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi

  • Kombucha

  • Tempeh

  • Miso

  • Pickled vegetables

  • Fermented hotsauce

  • Natto

  • Apple cider vinegar

4. Limit your sugar consumption and avoid processed foods

A high-sugar diet can promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae, leading to sugar and junk food cravings. Your microbes play an important role in your food choices, so if you feed them bad food, they’ll make you want to eat more of it. Thus, harming your health in general. Amazingly, your gut and your brain are interconnected. 90% of serotonin is produced in your microbiome, as opposed to a common belief that it’s mainly produced in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, emotions, behavior, appetite, digestion, sexual behavior, and energy.

5. Get out in nature

Earlier I said that your environment affects your microbiome, remember? Kids who have been exposed to dirt, pets, and other children in their early years are more likely to have a good diversity of good bacteria in their gut which builds strong immune systems. Even if you’re an adult, being around places with abundant microbiology can be beneficial.

Farms and gardens are a great example of an environment full of good bacteria, especially if they have livestock, pets, compost, and healthy soil. Joel Salatin believes the best way to create a healthy immune system and the microbiome is to be exposed to microbes. One of the best things you can do is to get your hands dirty in your garden or healthy soil.

Just as your gut is full of microbes, so is the soil. When farmers spray chemicals on their land, they kill the microbiology in the soil. When you take antibiotics or eat processed foods, you kill your microbiome. There is a symbiotic relationship between us and nature, so go out and feed your tiny friends. If you take care of them, they’ll keep you healthy for a lifetime!

Bonus: Buy organic whenever possible

Conventional farming uses pesticides and chemicals that can kill the good bacteria, so buy organic produce at your local farmers market and if you eat meat, dairy, and eggs, go for the grass-fed and pasture-raised options. Your body, mind, and environment will thank you for your choices.

P.S. Share this with your loved ones so they can also be strong and healthy too!


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