Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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Take Care of Your Body's Microbiome So It Will Take Care of You
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) With every chance they get, natural health authorities are telling people to add more raw fruits and vegetables to their diets. One important reason is that eating raw foods keeps your microbiome happy, and when your microbiome is happy, you will probably be happy and healthy too. What’s a microbiome? It’s a new word to describe the friendly microbes that have lived in symbiosis in the intestinal tract of humans since the beginning of time.
Trillions of friendly microbes inhabit our bodies, or it least they should. These include bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and viruses – about 500 species in all, and about three pounds worth in every person’s gut. In fact, we have more microbes in our guts than cells in our bodies, if things are going well. The microbes that comprise the microbiome are your defenders. Because they want to protect their warm and cozy home in your gut, friendly microbes will go to great lengths to protect you. They will wage war against unfriendly microbes and pathogens, and in the process keep you safe and sound.
What happens when you kill off the members of your microbiome with antibiotics or environmental poisons? The promise of symbiosis is broken, and there is virtually nothing left to protect you against disease. This is why those natural health authorities also say death begins in the gut.
The microbiome comprises 70% of the immune system, so it is largely responsible for destroying cancer cells. If you have been well and fit for the past several years, be sure to thank you microbiome. It has kept you safe from digestive problems, colds, flu, allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (irritable bowel syndrome, acne, chronic fatigue), depression, mood disorders, slow metabolism, weight gain, autism, dementia, and cancer.
What can go wrong with this happy story are antibiotics, chlorinated water, pesticides, vaccines, pollution, and the food we chose to feed our microbiome. Each can drastically reduce its friendly population or annihilate it completely. That would be a terrible outcome, because the creatures that inhabit your microbiome assist at every meal, breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, keeping out toxins and producing other nutrients, in addition to keeping disease away.
The microbiome works to keep extra pounds away too. Research with 123 non-obese and 169 obese individuals showed that those who had reduced levels of friendly gut microbes displayed more body fat, insulin resistance, inflammation, elevated LDL cholesterol, and stoke compared to those who had normal amounts of friendly gut microbes. `
If you currently have a health problem, the first step to start alleviating it is to attend to your microbiome, no matter where in the body the problem is located. Gut health or the lack of it affects the entire body.
The best way to start building a healthy microbiome is by increasing intake of raw fruits and vegetables, the foods that help the microbiome thrive. Then cut back on processed sugar, which assists unfriendly microbes to grow and multiply. There are plenty of research studies on the positive effects to the microbiome of eating like our ancestors did. Their food was fresh because refrigerators were small back then, and people had to shop every couple of days. There was hardly any processed food because it had not been invented, and people ate primarily fruits, raw and cooked vegetables, and meat. Obesity and heart disease were virtually unheard of then.
The microbiome and the big picture
Evidence abounds showing that the immune system is a key communication pathway between the gut and the brain. As such, it plays an important role in stress pathologies. In addition, the microbiome produces most of the common neurotransmitters found in the human brain, along with antimicrobial peptides, short chain fatty acids, and several vitamins.
It is now beyond doubt that the content of the gut plays a central role in the development of immunity. Early disruption of the symbiosis between humans and microbes, such as what results from the taking of antibiotics, may lead to lifetime consequences in the brain and distal organs, as well as interrupting intestinal function.
The immune and nervous systems are in continuous communication in order to maintain homeostasis, the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between the interdependent elements of the body.
Though not all is known yet about the effect of the microbiome’s role in coordinating the immune-nervous system dialogue, studies using animals, infective models, prebiotics, probiotics, and antibiotics have increased understanding of this interplay.
What is known is that early life stress can have a lifelong impact on microbial content in the intestines, and may permanently alter immune function. The field of psychiatry has long known that life stresses impact psychopathology.
For scientists, the challenge remaining is to fully unlock the molecular mechanisms linking the microbiome with the immune and central nervous systems. This would produce an understandable network of communication impacting on behavior patterns and psychopathology.
As a team of researchers in Ireland said in their study extract published in June
“The challenge now is to fully decipher the molecular mechanisms that link the gut microbiota, immune and central nervous systems in a network of communication that impacts on behaviour patterns and on psychopathology, to eventually translate these findings to the human situation both in health and disease.”
As of now, key sites of communication are being identified where the human microbiome can be tampered with in the name of improving mental health. Whether this will be another takeover by the drug companies, as we have seen with children diagnosed with ADHD, remains to be seen.
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Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.
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