Understanding Your Gut's Microbiome

From research-based articles to health-related listicles, the term “microbiome” has been making its rounds in the health and wellness industry. While it can mean different things as it relates to our bodies, this buzzword is closely linked to the growing interest in gut health.

What is a Microbiome?

In simple terms, a microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live inside of us, good and bad. While we all have human microbiome, we also have more specific microbiomes that make up our skin, gastrointestinal tract and other vital organs.

However, of all the microbial communities that live inside of our bodies, the largest resides in our gut.

“Every time you eat, you’re not just feeding yourself, but your entire microbiome,” says Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D. “It’s important to make sure you’re feeding those bacteria properly.”

Understanding the Gut

From bacteria and viruses to fungi and protozoa, there’s a diverse array of microorganisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. This community not only influences our immunity and disease-fighting capabilities, but also our serotonin and dopamine levels.

“When we talk about our microbiome, we’re talking about the whole neighborhood,” Meletis says, including the good neighbors, bad neighbors and “transient” neighbors. “It’s about balance and diversity,” he says.

Due to the inextricable link between our gut, brain and mood, our gut’s microbiome has a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our health. Aside from indigestion and other gastrointestinal-related symptoms, migraines, ongoing fatigue and dramatic mood changes could all point to a potential microbiome imbalance as well.

Managing your Microbiome

When it comes to gut health, paying attention to digestion and minimizing inflammation are key, Meletis says. Addressing GI concerns early on can also help reduce the risk of developing leaky gut, thyroid issues or even colon cancer.

Finding a good probiotic and prioritizing hydration are two good places to start, he says, as making too many changes to your diet can result in unforeseen side effects.

“There’s such thing as too much of a good thing,” Meletis says. "We’ve lived with our microbiome our whole lives, so if you change that, you’re really altering the person as a whole.”

While proper nutrition and sleep are the backbone of a healthy microbiome, the proper testing can help pinpoint which foods are giving you the most trouble. Notch’s at-home food sensitivity tests are a great tool to help you better understand your personal microbiome.

“It can be hard to differentiate between a food sensitivity or bacterial overgrowth if you’re just relying on symptoms,” Meletis says. “Food sensitivity testing can really help point you in the right direction.”

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