You are more bacteria than you are human.
The human body contains more bacterial cells than it does human cells.
They are spread throughout the entire body but the majority of them live in your digestive tract. It is estimated that the human gut contains 2-6 lbs of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that make up the human microbiota. These microbes and their genes (together are called the microbiome) influence almost every aspect of our lives including our food choices, weight, immune system, and cognitive ability.
Scientific research on the gut microbiome in the last decade has revealed astonishing information that will change the way we view and treat health and disease.
There are over 100 trillion organisms representing over ten thousand species. They influence and are responsible for
- Digesting our food
- Producing vitamins, hormones, and enzymes
- Protecting against colonization of harmful bacteria and parasites
- Balancing our blood sugar
- How we store fat
- Our appetite and food choices
- Our cognitive ability
- Regulating our immune system
- Maintaining a healthy gut barrier
- Neurotransmitter production
Like any ecosystem, the microbiome is healthiest when it is the most diverse. Different strains have different functions. The diversity allows the system to respond to threats more effectively.
Taking antibiotics, however, is like dropping a nuclear bomb on this important ecosystem.
Studies have shown that even after two years after antibiotic treatment the diversity of the microbes is only a fraction of what existed prior to treatment. Antibiotics are good and have helped us with controlling the spread of harmful bacteria but they have been largely overused. They are sprayed on our vegetables and greatest majority of antibiotics used in the United States are pumped into animals that we consume. In one study, 40% of the people that had antibiotics detected in their gut self-reported that they hadn’t had any antibiotics for over a year, suggesting they could be consuming the antibiotics from the food they eat.
The best way to restore the micriobiome after a series of antibiotics, or in general, is through the use of food and probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms and can be used to help re-establish a healthy microbiome. I like to use them in a targetted fashion, to drive toward a certain outcome. For example, when I have a client that has dysbiosis, an imbalance in the normal flora, I may use a probiotic to help rebalance. But food is by far the most effective means of repairing after anti-biotics and maintaining a healthy microbiome.
Food to eat –
- Diversity is key -eat a wide range of foods
- Mostly plant based diet
- Fresh and unprocessed
- Eat what’s in season
- High fiber vegetables
- Bone Broth
- Fermented plant-based foods
- Sour/bitter Foods
- Goat’s milk kefir/yogurt
- Coconut/coconut oil
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Eat organic and mostly plants. The plant fibers act as pre-biotics. Pre-biotics are food for the healthy bacteria. We can’t actually digest these fibers on our own. The bacteria in the gut digest them resulting in the production of what are called short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that have beneficial effects for us. So eat plenty and eat a wide variety.
Food to avoid –
- Sugar – (inflammatory foods)
- Inflammatory fats – polyunsaturated Omega-6 fats(soybean, canola, other seed oils)
- Limit foods that contain antibiotics (meat)
These foods allow opportunistic bacteria to overgrow, as well as other pathogens (bacteria and/or parasites known to cause disease) to dominate.
One glass of alcohol a week is likely OK, but 1-2 glasses a night is not.