By Dr. Jeffrey Eisenberg, MD

Microbiome

Did you know we have 100 trillion bacteria in our gut? Yep, over 10,000 species of these little critters…some of them transient nomads and some permanent residents. It's not an area most of us dwell on, but our Microbiome supports every conceivable aspect of our health. It is an organ in and of itself and determines if we live robustly to a ripe old age.

So what do these bacteria do for us?

(1). Aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients

(2). Create a physical barrier against potential invaders

(3). Act as a detoxification machine preventing infection

(4). Influences our immune system (80% of our immune system is in the gut)

(5). Produce vitamins (B12) and neurotransmitters (serotonin)

(6). Helps fight inflammation

Clearly, we don't want our gut overrun by unfriendly bacteria. We want the good guys....diverse,  beneficial bacteria!

What forces can derail our Microbiome?

(1). Exposure to chemicals in food ( gluten, sugar) and drugs like antibiotics

(2). Poor nutrition ( low fiber, low healthy fats, high sugar)

(3). Stress and inflammation

You see, anything that interferes with the integrity of our intestinal wall creates havoc. Have you heard of the “leaky gut syndrome”? Our intestinal lining is only one cellular layer of thickness. When that tight junction becomes permeable, the gatekeepers can no longer protect us and bacterial pathogens, undigested proteins, and lipopolysaccharides (LPS) gain entrance into our circulation. And this results in a firestorm of inflammatory diseases:

(1). Arthritis

(2). Inflammatory bowel disease ( crohns and ulcerative colitis)

(3). Asthma, eczema, food allergies

(4). Celiac disease

(5). Alzheimer's and cognitive impairment

(6). Mood disorders (anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue)

(7). Autoimmune disease

So how do we keep our gut happy and functioning properly?

(1). Probiotics: live good bacteria found in fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, Kimchi, yogurt, Tempeh, pickles, Kombucha)

(2). Prebiotics: nondigesible fiber that act as food or fuel for the good bacteria (acacia gum, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onion)

(3). Go Low- carb, high quality fat

(4). Polyphenols: powerful antioxidants found in black and green tea, red wine, dark chocolate

(5). Intermittent fasting (a topic of intense recent interest)

Remember, a healthy gut leads to a more healthy, more productive, and longer life.  Treat those good bacteria well and they will return the favor a thousand fold!