Normally, when someone mentions bacteria, viruses or fungi people think of diseases, but our bodies have trillions of them that are important to our health and well being.
Collectively they are known as the microbiome and the largest concentration of them is in our gut. Individually they are called microorganisms, or microbes for short.
An adult body has about 40 trillion microbes and 30 trillion v=cells, which means we are made up of more microbes than human cells. In our gut, there are around a 1000 different species of them, all with a job of their own. However, together they are as important as any of your organs and play a huge role in our health.
How Gut Microbes Affect Your Health
Gut microbes affect your health in many different ways, including digesting fiber, which can help to lower the risk of heart diseases, weight gain, diabetes, and some cancers. They communicate with your immune cells and help to boost your immune system to fights off any infections. Your gut microbes can also affect your central nervous system and help with the way your brain functions.
Certain species of the bacteria can promote the production of some chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, and some of these can make you feel happier and more positive. Just as one example, serotonin is an antidepressant neurotransmitter that is made mostly in the gut. The gut is also connected to the brain through millions of nerves, and the microbes can affect brain health by helping to control these messages.
Some studies have shown that people with psychological problems seem to have different species of microbes in their gut compared to healthy people, but as yet it has not been established if this is because of diet or lifestyle. However, it has been known for a long time that what you eat can affect your moods and that the wrong foods can cause anxiety and depression. It, therefore, follows that foods that promote a healthy gut will also help to lift your mood and lower the risk of you suffering from mental illnesses.
Make Sure Microbiome is Healthy
The best way to keep you microbiome healthy is to eat a diverse range of foods, which includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains like amaranth grain, buckwheat and oatmeal, and fermented foods. This will lead to a greater range of microbes and good gut health. Not only that, but legumes, beans and fruit and vegetables all contain a lot of fiber and can help to promote a healthy microbiome.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir have a lot of healthy bacteria in them and these can help to reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria in the gut, especially the homemade versions which tend to be better than store-bought. The kind of plant-based diet that vegetarians and vegans eat can also help with this.
Whole grains have a lot of fiber in them as well as beneficial carbs. These are digested by the gut bacteria and can help to reduce weight, as well as lowering the risk of some medical conditions.