The microbiome is home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms (a ratio of 10 times more bacterial cells to human cells) that reside in our gut, mouth, skin, and elsewhere in our body. A stable microbiome is needed for digestion, to synthesize nutrients, and to prevent disease.
Understanding the microbiome is still a work in process.
However, balancing your microbiome is critical for optimal health and may prevent some of the following serious health conditions.
1) Autoimmune Disorders
Approximately 70 percent of the immune system lives in the gut. Autoimmunity occurs when gut bacteria becomes unstable and the immune system begins to attack seemingly normal cells.
2) Mental Health Disorders
Signalling between the GI tract and the brain is regulated at neural, hormonal, and immunological levels. This is known as a condition called the gut-brain axis. In order to maintain homeostasis, the gut must be healthy. Colonization of negative bacteria may result in mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and dementia.
3) Poor Immune Health
Poor immune health makes you vulnerable to illnesses, such as the flu or common cold. An overgrowth of gut bacteria can also result in immunity conditions such as the overgrowth of yeast, or Candida, which can lead to thrush and yeast infections. Managing your microbiome will restore proper balance to immunity and prevent or shorten the length of the common cold.
4) Heart Disease
Acidosis occurs when microbiome levels are unstable, which can result in conditions that affect the heart. Recent studies have shown that there is an influence of the gut microbiome in diseases such as cardiovascular disease through modification of risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, and plasma lipids.
5) Type II Diabetes
Studies show that patients with type II diabetes have a moderate degree of gut microbial imbalance, a decrease in the number of good bacteria, and an increase in pathogens.
6) Skin Conditions
Skin conditions are another result of acidosis, which occurs when there is too much acid the body. Generally, skin conditions can be cleared up by eating an anti-inflammatory diet full of alkalising fruits and vegetables that will re-establish a balanced microbiome level.
7) Weight Gain and Obesity
The link between weight gain and an unstable microbiome is usually caused by improper diet and lack of activity. Choosing the wrong foods, such as foods high in processed sugar, triggers systemic inflammation, which can result in obesity if not corrected.
8) Acid Reflux
Inflammation and intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus are caused by the alteration of the microbiome, which can cause the risk of reflux related disorders.
Cancer results when a specific bacterium is infected by pathogens, such as in the case of gastric cancer. In the case of colorectal cancer, cancerous cells form because of tumor-promoting effects of the microbiota. However, in most cases cancer may be significantly reduced by establishing healthy microbiome bacteria.
10) Constipation or Diarrhea
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, can cause both constipation and diarrhea. A study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility published a study investigating the characteristics of gut microbita in patients with constipation and found that Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species were significantly less abundant when compared to patients with healthy controls.
11) Asthma and Chronic Sinus Infections
Sinus mucosal health is dependent on the health of the resident microbiota. Research indicates that sinus microbiota of CRS (chronic rhinosinusitis) patients exhibit reduced bacterial diversity than those of healthy controls.
How to Balance Microbiome Levels
Approximately 99 percent of microbial mass is in the gut (Schwabe et al, 2013). For this reason, the gastrointestinal microbiome has the greatest effect on overall health and metabolic status of all the microbiomes.
Certain types of foods, along with antibiotic and prescription drug treatments, can greatly affect microbiome balance. Recent studies have shown that a baby’s first antibiotic treatment has a marked effect on microbes in the GI tract. Microbe levels are also altered by the introduction of certain foods.
According to the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, beneficial microbes in the gut break down and ferment the components in dark chocolate, turning them into absorbable anti-inflammatory compounds.
To increase microbiome health, eat a pH balanced diet full of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. Be sure to avoid processed food, sugar and meat, sugary drinks, alcohol, and gluten, which can all affect homeostasis balance.
Supplementing with a probiotic and eating fermented foods may also aid in overall gut health. It is especially important to supplement with a probiotic while taking an antibiotic, which can wipe out good bacteria in the gut. Along with eating a proper diet, you can improve microbiome health by exercising daily (at least 30 minutes), drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest. Decreasing inflammation will prevent disease, restore microbiome balance, and eliminate acidosis.
Schwabe, R., & Jobin, C. (2013). The microbiome and cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer, 800-812.