Called the microbiome, it is made up of millions of organisms that live in and on us, said Elizabeth Corwin, vice dean for strategic and innovative research at Columbia University’s School of Nursing. And a healthy microbiome is a crucial part of good health.
It affects the immune system and helps synthesize important vitamins in our gut, Corwin added. These organisms also offer protection, can help heal wounds, kill bad pathogens and help some drugs work better, said Sheena Kruikshank, a professor in the Department of Infections, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester in the United States. kingdom.
Caring for your microbiome can help with many conditions, including allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases, Cruickshank said.
“What we really mean by a good microbiome is a diverse microbiome,” Kruikshank said. “Many diseases are usually associated with a lack of diversity.”
She and Corvin shared easy ways to get more microbial diversity into their lives.
What about the dog?
Looking for an excuse to adopt a dog? Here it is.
Studies show that dogs share their microbiome with the household, Corwin said. Growing up with a dog has been shown to reduce the chances of developing asthma and allergies, Kruikshank said.
And caring for a pet is a nice way to exchange bacteria, she added. Only the presence of animals around can help.
“We also have a microbiome in our buildings and in the air around us,” Kruikshank said. “Rural microbiomes are thought to be a little more diverse and may be better for our lung health.”
Sorry, cat people, but Corwin said dogs seem to be the most useful pets for the microbiome.
Reduce your stress
An important health factor in the microbiome is how permeable or permeable your gut is.
Everyone’s gut is permeable to some degree, but some people’s gut is more permeable than others, Corwin said. If your gut releases healthy and beneficial microorganisms, that’s fine, she added. But if you release more virulent microorganisms, the immune cells waiting outside will be activated, which can cause inflammation.
So how does your stress come into play?
“High cortisol, which is one of our stress hormones, can actually increase the permeability of your gut,” Corwin said. “If you live under high stress, your gut may be more permeable.”
Change your diet
A varied diet high in fiber is important for a healthy microbiome, experts said.
The microbiota loves high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, Corwin said. Fiber is not well absorbed in the stomach and tends to be broken down more by microorganisms and move through the gut, she added.
Fermented foods can be useful because they often give you live bacteria, Cruikshank said. But although some studies have shown effectiveness, it is difficult to know for sure whether you will get beneficial bacteria from the fermented foods you eat, because batches can vary so much.
Cruikshank said he was worried about the microbiome of people who restricted their diet, either because of a restrictive diet or because they relied on high-fat but convenient foods.
“Having a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables gives you a lot of different things to eat and enjoy,” said Kruikshank. “The simplest thing we can do is have a good, balanced diet.”
What about probiotics?
Perhaps. Probiotics are often the first thing that comes to mind when talking about gut health, but the evidence of how effective they are is mixed, Kruikshank said.
They are often recommended after an antibiotic to replenish the good bacteria that can be killed along with the bad ones with medication.