By Tracy Warren, Co-founder and CEO
I’ve Got a Gut Feeling This is Going to Be Huge!
Who knew the word “microbiome” would find its way to everyday news? It certainly sounds like the jargon of scientists. The microbiome is defined as “the collective genomes of the microbes (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that live inside and on the human body.” Not something you expect to find its way to magazine covers and dinner parties. So why has it made this transition to hot topics of us laypeople? It’s because we have come to understand that your microbiome, in particular, the intestinal microbiome – your gut – affects growth, brain development and cognitive resilience, including how you “feel”. It’s literally at the center of everything.
You’ve Long Been Told to Trust Your Gut
The gut impacts how we think and feel. It’s the center of nutrition and absorption which drives growth and brain development early in life and helps maintain appropriate weight as we mature. Challenges in your microbiome early in life can have a dramatic effect on cognitive outcomes. The future of health is in nutrition and appropriate attenuation of any inflammation (fancy word is dysbiosis) of the gut. Keeping your gut “happy” will pay dividends throughout life.
However, what also fascinates me is the role the gut plays in your immune health. Who knew that allergy, asthma and even eczema, start with your gut?? Think back to your awkward preteen and teenage years. Did your mom tell you that soda and other poor nutritional choices caused acne breakouts? I simply thought she was taking the fun out of being a teen. Nope, she was actually on to something.
As we, as a nation, deal with the increasing epidemics of chronic conditions plaguing our children, we need to just look down (at our belly buttons) and center our thinking on the gut. To create resilient immunity, we need to prevent these conditions by setting an optimal condition early in life and work throughout life to keep our gut at the center of our thinking.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Gut Wrenching
So what are we trying to accomplish in seeking a “healthy microbiome”? First, let me be clear, there is no perfect microbiome. We’re all incredibly different. Your diet, your environment, and other factors create, influence and alter your microbiome. Any company that advertises that one single probiotic will create a “healthy microbiome” for everyone is full of . . .
well, let’s just say microbiome is sequenced from fecal matter and leave it at that.
Diversity and symbiosis are the names of the game with microbiomes. As in any particular environment, the term “diversity” typically refers to how many different species can be identified. The diversity of an ecosystem can occasionally reflect how healthy it is considered to be. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders. So we work for symbiosis, or health balance, in our microbial communities.
Blood and Guts
As a child, I was raised on a farm in a small town in Michigan. It may appall many of the moms reading this but my cousins and I interacted with all kinds of animals, swam in ponds, drank from the hose and probably grabbed food without always washing our hands. No antibacterial wipes and my mom never had that spray stuff. Miraculously, we not only survived but thrived. Could it be our cesspool of bacteria kept us healthy?
Having raised my children near Princeton, New Jersey, the “be clean or get sick” phenomenon fascinates me. Spraying hands, wiping kids down every time they touch anything – while well intentioned, there are consequences to our hyper-hygiene.
We’re now learning that in wiping out bad bacteria, we’re changing the balance of our bacterial ecosystem and sometimes the good need the bad to survive. Villains create the need for heroes. The secret is balance. Let the kids get dirty, maybe even a little bloody, and the resilience will follow bacterially, physically and hopefully emotionally.
No Guts, No Glory
I’m not a microbiologist or researcher providing scientific testimony on the importance of your gut. But what I can tell you, having been in the field and focusing on the importance of this vital organ is that if you ignore it, it’s to your own peril. Being mindful that to stay healthy or return to health you need to trust your gut. Make those seemingly tough decisions to focus on proper nutrition and balance in your microbiome. Think about how nature intended you to feed the body. Put away the wipes, allow the “three second rule” for food on the floor. If you want to feel better, think clearer, and live longer, healthier lives, bask in the glory of your gut.