The Microbiome: A Key to Your Health

Abigail McShinsky
MegaFood Training and Education Specialist

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics. Perhaps you even take them, as a supplement, yourself. The research and information demonstrating their vital importance to our health is growing, and it’s remarkable. Probiotics comprise what we refer to as the human microbiome – the vast collection of beneficial bacteria that inhabit, and form a deeply symbiotic relationship with, us.

Our digestive tracts are home to over 5,000 different species of beneficial bacteria, all of whom perform specific functions within our body (LiveScience). In addition to aiding in the digestion of food and nutrient assimilation, they are our biggest defense against illness – over 70% of our immune response resides within our gut!

Beyond this role, however, science continues to link the health of our microbiome to things such as allergies, and even lend credence to the phrase “gut reaction,” demonstrating a link between the health of our friendly crusaders and the brain! It begins to make sense, then, why these helpful bacteria, so important to our health and well-being, are called what they are – probiotic – literally meaning for life!

Unfortunately, modern diet trends and a focus on refined foods do not make for a strong microbiome. The Standard American Diet lacks diversity and an emphasis on fresh, whole, and fermented foods that nourish and grow our probiotic army. In addition, our frequent antibiotic use decimates these good guys and lowers our defenses further.

There is, of course, good news at the end of all of this. There are great ways to get probiotics back into your diet, and of course, into your gut, where they belong!  One thing to consider is foods that are rich in probiotics. Traditionally, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and pickles are great options to start including in your daily diet. Just be sure they are the real deal – look for the words ‘fermented’ or ‘traditionally fermented’ on the label, and make sure they come from the refrigerated section, as probiotics are living, and many strains require cooler temperatures to stay alive (they can actually be damaged by heat!)

There are, of course, less-familiar options to look into as well – foods such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha are delicious and healthy ways to get probiotics into your child’s diet, not to mention helping them create healthy eating habits for years to come.

In addition to fortifying the diet with these good-for-the-gut foods, a probiotic supplement is another convenient choice. Seek formulations that deliver a wide-range of flora strains rather than just one or two, and one that requires refrigeration, to ensure you are getting viable, living strains.

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