The microbiome is defined as a community of microorganisms, including fungi, viruses, and bacteria, which inhabit our bodies and can be found anywhere from our skin to intestines. Yes, you’re covered in them. We are carrying trillions of microorganisms on literally every square inch of our bodies. Before you reach for the hand sanitizer, it’s important to first know the good, the bad, and the not so ugly truth about your microbiome.
One of the main differences between the various microorganisms is their function. What we refer to as good bacteria play a vital role in our health. In recent years bacteria have become increasingly profitable. We are constantly hearing and seeing information or advertisements about the benefits of “friendly bacteria” or probiotics. Probiotic is a term used to classify foods and supplements that are meant to aid in the production of good bacteria in the body. They provide protection by boosting the immune system, aiding in digestion, and the synthesis of certain vitamins, notably vitamin K.
There is also the not so good part of your microbiome. When people hear the word microorganism or bacteria, they often think of the diseases caused by harmful bacteria and viruses. For the most part, harmful or bad microorganisms can exist in the body without causing health issues due to the good microorganisms that create a system of checks and balances. Your microbiome can become imbalanced due to the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics that destroy both good and bad bacteria, overconsumption of processed or refined foods, stress, and even a lack of sleep. All of these factors give the bad bacteria the opportunity to flourish. If the imbalance is left unchecked it can lead to more chronic types of illnesses including many types of cancers.
There is a silver lining to all this fuss about bacteria: Over the years microbiome research has made tremendous advancements in understanding how properties of the microbiome affect human health and disease. The research provides insight into how our DNA could play an important role in possible prevention and treatment of certain chronic illnesses in the future. For now, you can always take a more active role in your health. The foods you consume on a daily basis can determine the types and amounts of microorganisms in your body.
To reap the benefits of good bacteria try adding in probiotics to your diet via our Creamy Lemon Yogurt for breakfast or dessert, some Miso to a side dish, and experiment with Kimchi in a broth. Most probiotic foods can be relatively inexpensive to purchase and can easily be made at home.