All the good bacteria in and on your body constitute what is known as your microbiome. Your microbiome is made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and protozoa. There are 10 times as many of them as there are cells in your body, and they even have their own genome, or DNA!
Specific microbes (microscopic organisms) live in specific parts of the body where they perform specific functions. The microbes located in the hair follicles on your head are different from the microbes in your nose, which are different from the microbes in your large intestine.
These microbes that make up your microbiome perform a variety of functions in the body. They help us digest our food, produce vital nutrients such as folate and vitamins K and B12, and they prevent us from getting sick. Without the microbes in and on our bodies, we wouldn’t be able to survive.
Most of these microbes are good microbes. We want them because they take up space so bad microbes have no place to park. Many illnesses have now been linked with too many of the wrong microbes ending up in the wrong part of the body, or simply not enough microbes. These illnesses include mental illness, colitis, autoimmune diseases, autism, obesity, asthma, and of course, cancer.
Given how important the microbiome is the good health, what can we do to heal and maintain it? Here are some tips:
- Avoid antibacterial soaps and cleaning agents. These chemicals destroy good microbes on your skin and in your home. One of the reasons for the rise of autoimmune diseases and allergies in the last 50 years has been the insistence on pristinely clean home and work environments, which is based on the false assumption that all microbes are bad for us and should be eliminated.
- Avoid taking antibiotics unless you absolutely need them. Antibiotics reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria, but they also usually reduce far more good bacteria. If you need to take antibiotics, make sure that you take probiotics concurrently (but not at exactly the same time) to replenish the necessary microbes in your microbiome. Antibiotics not only damage DNA, but they also damage mitochondria, the energy centres inside our cells. Damaged mitochondria can lead to cancer.
- Buy organic meat and dairy products or meat and dairy from animals that haven’t been fed antibiotics. Even if you’re not taking antibiotics yourself, the nonorganic food you eat contains them.
- The most important thing you can do is to eat foods that support your microbiome! Foods that feed the microbiome are fibre-containing foods (beans, grains, fruit, and vegetables, especially leeks, artichokes, radishes, and asparagus), and fermented and cultured foods such as non-pasteurized sauerkraut and kimchi.
Good digestion is the basis of good health. Supporting your microbiome will go a long way to ensuring lifelong good health.