When I was in naturopathic medical school we focused a significant portion of education on gut health and I continue to focus on digestion this day. If you see me as a patient you know that one question I always ask is “how is your digestion?” When your digestion is off it can affect virtually all systems of your body, it is that important. One major reason gut health is so important is because of your microbiome.
What is your microbiome?
You’ve probably heard this term, especially more recently in the past 3-5 years. The microbiome is the collection of bacteria that live in your digestive tract, primarily the large intestine.
What does the microbiome do?
I could say, you name it the microbiome does it! That’s not quite true but your microbiome does a lot. The research on gut bacteria has exploded in the last several years and it keeps expanding. We are learning how important those little bugs are in helping the body function on a day to day basis, they are that important!
Changing your physiology
An interesting finding is that when your microbiome changes so does your physiology. What does this mean? Doing a quick search in PubMed brings up over 56,000 research articles discussing the relationship between your microbiome and the other systems of your body. Your microbiome can effect some of these outcomes:
- brain health
- vaginal health
- the immune system
- exercise endurance, and more!
These studies show that when your microbiome changes so does your health. When you have the right balance of a microbiome your brain functions better, your weight can decrease, and the aging process can slow. When you have dysbiosis you’re more anxious, get sick more often, and may gain weight.
What is dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis is when the gut has more of the pathogenic, less supportive bacteria than the healthy, supportive bacteria. Antibiotic usage is the primary cause of this but other factors like food poisoning, consuming contaminated food or water, constipation, and eating processed foods, sugar, or junk food can all lead to dysbiosis.
When you have dysbiosis it could be affecting any of the above systems.
This is why it is so important to ensure your microbiome is in a good balance.
How do you achieve this?
- Fiber intake
- Addressing any infections
- Ensuring stomach acid and enzymes are sufficiently present
- Repairing the gut lining
What can you do now?
Here are two simple things to support your microbiome right now.
- Get enough fiber in your diet. Eating fresh vegetables like kale, collards, and broccoli, legumes, and oats all provide great sources of fiber.
- Take 1 teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar (non-filtered) to a glass of water and drink 15-30 minutes before your meals. This stimulates the stomach acid and enzyme production in the stomach.
Try these two things out for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference in how you feel. Drop me a line, I’d love to know your results!
Dr. Laura Enfield, ND, LAc
Dr. Laura Enfield is a California licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. She is an expert in helping people with acute and chronic joint pain, digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and thyroid issues.