If I told you that your body was actually made up 37.2 trillion cells, each one a unique and individual building block of life you probably wouldn't be all that impressed. Sure, the way they all work togeather is incredibly impressive, but ever since high school biology we've been aware that we're made up of an unbelievable number of cells.
Now, what if I told you that your 37.2 trillion cells were vastly out numbered by other entities, or microbes, in your body? Just like your cells, they're individual and alive! What would you guess the ratio of your cells vs. your microbes are? Two-to-one, three-to-one, or maybe four-to-one? What if the number wasn't four-to-one, but actually more like ten-to-one! So, while we may think of ourselves as completely autonomous individuals, the truth is we're more microbe than human!
Luckily, most of the time these microbes work in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. They help us properly digest food, absorb nutrients, and fight off disease. Sometimes though, our microbes get out of wack and that can cause problems.
A growing body of research seems to indicate that a lack of healthy microbes, or even worse, an abundance of unhealthy microbes, can influence everything from our mood, to our physical health, propensity for disease, and even the foods we crave.
So, what can you do to make sure you keep the good microbes flourishing and the bad ones at bay?
1. Eat Fermented Foods
Fermenting foods makes them healthy! Why? Long story short, fermented foods get to be fermented when millions of microbes go to work. These microbes are what you see described as "live active cultures" on your yogurt and Kombucha bottles. They are the good organisms that help reduce inflammation in the body, assist in digestion, and promote all the other positive benefits listed above. They're basically what we're talking about when we use the term "probiotic."
Besides yogurt & Kombucha, other fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kifer, and more. Check out this WellnessFX article by Ben Greenfield for more on creating your own fermented foods at home!
2. Take a Good Probiotic
Finding a good probiotic with live microbes can be tricky. Outside of fermented foods, I get most of my probiotics from NOW Foods capsules as well as Shakeology. The nice thing about Shakeology is that it also includes prebiotics. Prebiotics are basically "food" for the probiotics so that they can flourish inside your gut!
3. Stay Away from Foods that Feed Bad Microbes
Don't eat over processed foods! We all know that too much sugar and unhealthy fat can lead to major health problems. Now a growing body of research also indicates that these foods actually feed the bad bacteria in your gut. This is one of the reasons many scientists believe our bodies crave these foods more when we eat them regularly (Remember how Morgan Spurlock went from being disgusted with his fast food diet to actually looking forward to it in the movie Supersize Me?).
By eating a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, fermented foods, and more, our bodies can basically starve the bad microbes.
4. Don't Take Antibiotics Unless Absolutely Needed
We're all tempted to pressure the Doc into prescribing us a general antibiotic at the first sign of a stuffy nose. I get it, I hate being sick too, but if you simply have a virus the antibiotic will do not good. In fact, it will crush the good bacteria in your gut almost instantly!
According to research cited by the FDA, "Every year, tens of millions of prescriptions for antibiotics are written to treat viral illnesses for which these antibiotics offer no benefits," says David Bell, M.D., the CDC's antimicrobial resistance coordinator."
So long story short, don't pressure the doctor into prescribing you antibiotics right off the bat. In fact, you may need to pressure the doc to not give you something!
For more on the subject of healthy gut bacteria, check out these resources that I viewed when writing this post.
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Ken Presutti is a certified ChiRunning instructor, ACE Personal trainer, Spinning instructor, and coach. This blog is a mix of new articles and posts from his original blog, Overkill is Underrated.