Beyond Probiotics: The Microbiome

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Beyond Probiotics: The Microbiome

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The microbiome is a complicated system that can be most easily defined as the bacteria residing in your gut. This is a terribly simplistic characterization of a complex system consisting of upwards of 100 trillion types of bacteria (and counting). But for the purposes of being understood by the layman, suffice it to say that your digestive tract is populated by a plethora of bacteria, both “good” and “bad” that, when balanced, work together to keep you healthy and well. And it is important to maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria (roughly 85% good and 15% bad) – without “bad” bacteria, your immune system might not remain vigilant, thus compromising your immunity.

The trouble, however, begins when you kill off good bacteria, upsetting the balance and allowing bad strains to gain greater footing. This imbalance can be caused by courses of antibiotics (especially unnecessary doses), environmental contaminants, food toxins, chemicals, GMOs, and a variety of other sources. In many cases, you are responsible for the toxins that enter your body through the gut. And the results can be staggering. Gastrointestinal disorders and chronic fatigue are common symptoms, but far from the worst of your troubles when your microbiome is out of whack. The real problem is chronic inflammation that can spread throughout your body, leading to serious medical issues like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Imbalance in the microbiome can also be linked to obesity and all of the many resultant health issues that follow.

But what can be done to correct such imbalances? Even today, it is a rare allopathic doctor willing to recommend probiotics as a course of treatment. And yet, when antibiotics are given to kill off bad/invasive bacteria, for example, good bacteria can also be compromised. So antibiotics and probiotics should go hand-in-hand as a means of repopulating good strains of bacteria before bad counterparts can take advantage. In truth, everyone should find ways to work probiotics into their daily diet, either through food or supplements.

Which is better, though? To date, supplements cannot hold a candle to whole food sources of probiotics, such as fermented foods. This is not to say that herbal supplements cannot be used as a complementary means of bolstering a compromised microbiome, but they are in no way comparable to the rich variety of beneficial bacteria to be found in, say, fermented foods.

As human innovation continues its inevitable forward march, our bodies become more and more inundated with chemicals and other toxins that we are ill-equipped to process. And microbiomes developed over centuries of life and genetic evolution are subject to damage as a result of the abuses of modern living (pesticides, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, and more). By adopting organic and natural eating habits, avoiding chemical toxins and antibiotics, and adding probiotics to the diet as a way to rebuild the microbiome, greater health, increased energy, and even reversal of chronic illness can be achieved.

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