New buzz words – microbiome and probiotics. I hear and see them everywhere, but the reality is, there is something significant going on here. So important that the Mayo Clinic published a primer about how physicians might incorporate research on the microbiome into their clinical practice. The Mayo Clinic has stated that,”understanding the basic concepts about the interactions between humans and their microbiome will be as important to clinicians as understanding concepts of genetics or germ theory.” Another highly respected medical research and treatment facility, The Cleveland Clinic, has weighed in with their opinion and they also see the importance of studying and understanding the role of the microbiome and human health.
So what is the microbiome and what are probiotics? Well first of all, the average human has 100 trillion microbes in the gut, which is 10 times more than the number of cells in the human body; hence, the bacteria and fungi known as our microbiome that inhabit our bodies vastly outnumber our human cells. These 100 trillion cells are made up of bacteria, eukaryotes, and viruses and they live in our gut, our whole digestive tract, our reproductive tract, on our skin, and even in our nose!! They weigh in at about 3 pounds total! And are involved in the health of our immune system, digestion, metabolism, appetite, and mental health. Not only do they help us to digest what we eat, in that process of digestion, they produce metabolites such as vitamins and neurotransmitters that our bodies depend on. Our gut is responsible for producing more of the neurotransmitter serotonin than is our brain. The problem is, the modern American diet has changed so much over the years that we don’t consume the microbes that we used to and in turn, are exposed to microbial-killing antibiotics and antimicrobials on a daily basis. Think of all the antibiotics that are prescribed, plus the antibiotics we consume from the meat we eat. On top of that, we are constantly exposed to all the different sources of antimicrobial soaps, hand washes, hand sanitizers, etc. Another exposure to microbes most Americans don’t get is time spent getting up close and personal with the outdoors by gardening, working in the yard, etc. Those activities expose us to all the different microbes living in the soil. Enter probiotics. It’s a category of foods and supplements we can consume to help re-colonize our microbiome. There are probiotics in pill form that you can get over the counter and in prescription form, but there are also really great foods that contain the healthy micrboes our microbiome needs. Any fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles contain “live-culture” microbes as do cultured foods like yogurt and kefir. You can also maintain a healthy microbiome by consuming kombucha, which is a beverage that begins with a fermented base, called a SCOBY – symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It ferments for a period of time and, when it is ready to consume, is a cocktail of live microbes!
So that brings me back to Living Foods and what we have to offer in probiotics. We have lots of different beverages containing healthy microbes including our local Kauai Juices, We have a really great cottage cheese that is organic and contains live cultures, as well as yogurts, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi. Here is a recipe made with kimchi for a soup that I love! Eat and//or drink any of these foods and you will be giving yourself a daily inoculation of healthy microbes!
To learn more about the microbiome, here are some great articles and websites: