Did you know that your body is made up of and covered in trillions of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, bugs, fungi and protists? Well, it is! In fact, humans are made up of about as many microbial cells as human cells. The trillions of microbes in your body create a microbial community called your microbiome.
Every individual has a unique microbiome made up of different types and amounts of microbes. Your microbiome can be affected by the environment you live in, the food you eat, and even by the way you were delivered into this world (4, 5, 7). The health of your microbiome also directly affects your overall health. An imbalanced microbiome is linked to skin allergies, digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased absorption of certain nutrients, and a weakened immune system. (1, 2, 6). Recently, several researchers have also been researching about the effects of microbiome on the brain and behavior.
Now that you know a little more about our microbiome, let’s talk about how you can strengthen our community of microbes! Whenever people talk about gut health, probiotics and prebiotics seem like the first things that pop up. Although people know that probiotics and prebiotics are beneficial and promote good health, most people are unsure what they are or what they do. Essentially, probiotics are live bacteria or microbes that you ingest to increase your microbial diversity. A greater diversity of microbes may lead to better overall health. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are foods that feed and promote the growth of the microbes in your gut.
Probiotics can be easily taken in pill form, but they can also be found in several different types of foods (1). Kefir, yogurt, natto, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables are all good sources of probiotics.
Prebiotics can naturally be found in plant based foods that are high in fiber. Leeks, asparagus, sunchokes, chicory, garlic, onions, wheat, oats, soybeans, bananas and yams are all considered great sources of prebiotics (8).
Given these points, you should try to eat a variety of grains, vegetables and fermented foods to improve your microbiome! You should also try to avoid using antibiotics, laxatives, and other non-antimicrobial medications. Several types of medications can cause lasting changes and imbalances to the microbiome (3).