What is a Microbiome? (And 5 Ways to Keep Yours Healthy)

You may think that you are only you. After all, who else could you be? But in the same way that scientists have been busy cataloguing DNA in the Human Genome Project, other scientists are busy cataloguing the many bacteria that live on or within the human body in the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). They found that each human being has a collection of ecosystems in various parts of his or her body. We have ecosystems in our intestines, in our mouth, on our tongue, on our teeth, on the front of our knees, on the back of our knees, on our nose, on our wrists, on our left hand, on our right hand, and on and on. You get the picture.

Scientists refer to the microbiome as the communities of microorganisms that inhabit your skin, mouth, gut and other parts of your body. Although the research to catalog the microorganisms on humans is ongoing, so far scientists have discovered that a personís left hand varies significantly from her right hand; only a small percentage of the bacteria on a personís left and right hands will be similar. And your right hand likely differs significantly from mine. We know from experience that our fingerprints differ from every other human on the planet; we are also learning that no two microbiomes are the same. The collection of bacteria inhabiting our body is a product of our life experience and unique to us.

Scientists working on the HMP are exploring the ecosystems within our bodies in five sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract and urogenital tract. Although many other ecosystems exist, they are currently focusing their efforts to catalog the microbes in these areas. With trillions of bacteria residing in our bodies, the magnitude of their project is vast.

What happens in your gut plays a significant role in determining the health of your whole body. After poring through hundreds of studies on probiotics and gut health, I found that the gut plays a critical role in the health of your brain, joints, respiratory system, immune system, skin health and much more. Over 1 trillion bacteria made up of an estimated one thousand different species reside in your intestines. Actually there are more microbes in your digestive tract than there are cells in your entire body.

Here are some simple ways to boost the health of your microbiome:

-Eat a plant-based diet. That doesnít mean you have to give up meat entirely (unless, of course, you want to) but it means making plant-based foods the priority in your diet. That includes: vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans and seeds.

-Reduce your sugar consumption. Harmful bacteria and yeasts feed on sugar and can quickly throw off the balance of good to harmful microbes in your gut.

-Drink more water. Water is needed to ensure regular bowel movements and bowel health.

-Eat probiotic-rich fermented foods daily. They include: kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, to name a few.

-Eat plenty of high fiber foods like legumes (chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, etc.), seeds (flax, chia, hemp, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, etc.), and whole grains like brown rice, millet, amaranth or quinoa (there are sustainably-grown, fair trade options available). Fiber helps to keep the bowels moving and prevent stagnation.

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international-best-selling and 18-time author whose works include The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out (DaCapo, 2015).

117 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela1 years ago

I already follow this diet. Thanks anyway

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

thanks

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Angela AWAY
Angela K1 years ago

Thank you

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Marlene H.
Marlene H1 years ago

Good ideas here

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