If you haven’t heard of the term “microbiome,” you likely will sooner rather than later. The health of your microbiome is something that your Fort Collins GI Doctor may be monitoring as part of your overall wellness. If they’re not, maybe they should. So what exactly is a microbiome? According to the University of Washington’s Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, a microbiome is the genetic material of all of the microbes that live on and inside the human body, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses:
“The bacteria in the microbiome help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including vitamin B12, thiamine, riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation.”
This microbiome is an essential aspect of our overall health. In fact, having a healthy microbiome is essential for human development, immunity and nutrition. Autoimmune diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and many others are associated with dysfunction in the microbiome. This is due to the fact that if disease-causing microbes accumulate, they can change gene activity and metabolic processes in your microbiome, which results in abnormal immune response. Researchers have also discovered that a person’s microbiome may influence their susceptibility to infectious diseases and contribute to chronic illness.
“Maintaining a homeostatic balance between microbial activity and host immune response toward it is what allows the immune system to function appropriately to defend against infection yet demonstrate appropriate tolerance,” according to the Institute for Functional Medicine, or IFM.
So how do we maintain this balance in our microbiome? Well, there are a number of things that we can do to ensure that our microbiomes remain healthy and balanced. One of the most important things you can do is eat for your microbiome. If your GI doctor isn’t talking about your microbiome, consider seeing a functional medicine physician about the best way for you to specifically eat for your microbiome, but here are a few guidelines:
Eat a plant-based diet with lots of fiber
Plants are rich sources of many nutrients that are important for good gut health, including unsaturated fats, vitamins (like folate), minerals (like potassium), fiber and protein. Plant-based foods also consist of prebiotics, these indigestible fibers are the preferred fuel source for your gut’s good bacteria. Try foods like onions, garlic, artichokes, oatmeal, rice and potatoes.
Consume Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, or tempeh all contain beneficial bacteria that can help fight bad bacteria, leading to a healthier balance of bacteria in your gut.
Eat your Polyphenols
These are the dark-colored micronutrients found in red wine, green tea, blueberries, pomegranates, cherries and dark chocolate. They’re antioxidants and decrease inflammation while stimulating beneficial bacteria growth.
If you would like more information on eating for your microbiome, contact one of the top functional medicine doctors in the Fort Collins area, Dr. Rachel Fischer at Restore Health Center. She would love to talk with you about what foods to eat and other ways to ensure that your microbiome is healthy, balanced and functioning at peak levels.
Dr. Fischer is a graduate of the University of Utah School of Medicine and trained in both internal medicine and preventive medicine. She received her fellowship training at the University of Washington in Seattle and is board-certified in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. She completed her functional medicine training through the Institute of Functional Medicine. Prior to joining Restore Health, she practiced in Portland Oregon, where she was named one of Portland’s Top Docs by Portland Monthly Magazine. While she addresses a wide range of chronic health challenges, she has a particular interest in gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases, as well as optimizing athlete health.