What is the Microbiome?

And Why Is It Important? 

The digestive system, beginning at the mouth through the excretion of waste product, is populated with trillions of microflora (bacteria, viruses and fungi) in it's own little ecosystem of sorts, called the microbiome

These microscopic organisms can be beneficial, neutral, or harmful. In an ideal situation, the body has a balance between the beneficial and symbiotic (neutral) organisms which keep the parasitic (harmful) organisms under control.  

We have microbes (small bugs) all over our body. Kinda gross when you think about it that way, right?! But they have been with us since humans walked the Earth. As we evolved as a species, our microbes evolved with us. A person is first exposed to microorganisms as an infant, during delivery in the birth canal and through a mother's breast milk.

 

We used to think of our GI tract as a hollow tube. Food comes in, waste goes out. The last few decades have completely reversed our thinking about what’s actually living in our intestines!

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It's helpful to think of your gut as an ECOSYSTEM, home to a vast and diverse range of living organisms living in a delicate balance known collectively as your MICROBIOME. These microbes include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, outnumbering human cells almost 10 to 1!! 

When a balanced microbiome exists, humans tend to feel a greater sense of well-being. 

Up to 90% of our feel-good hormones (serotonin & dopamine) are produced in the gut. So, it stands to reason that treating anxiety and depression with medications that only address the brain may be falling short of optimal results.

Trillions (~ 100 TRILLION) of microbes work together to ensure proper digestive function, control inflammation, produce vitamins and biochemicals our human cells cannot produce, and more!

 

Your microbiome is as unique as you are, impacted by both inherited microorganisms and the environment. In terms of human genes, we are 99.9% the same. But our microbiomes may be only 10% similar.

The gut microbiome essentially acts as a master conductor in your body.  Science is discovering more and more how utterly essential a strong, diverse microbiome is for long-term physical and mental health.  For example, 80% of your immune system resides in your gut.  It's impossible to have a healthy immune system without having a healthy microbiome.  In terms of mood and mental health, most of the chemicals that our brain uses to feel calm, happy, motivated, focused are produced in the gut (95% serotonin, 70% GABA).  Our hormones are also regulated by our microbes — from reproduction to metabolism — our microbiome plays a critical role.

The key is BALANCE. We can think of some species as more beneficial than others but, the truth is, we need them all in optimal amounts. We need a balanced diversity.

Our gut is the intuition and information source. The head is the analytical and logical source. And the heart is the emotional, passionate artistic source of well-being. When they are communicating well, we are closer to total well-being.

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