The area of microbiome and health is really beginning to blow up, and with good reason. Our bugs in our microbiome vastly outnumber our own cells, but roughly 10:1. Weighing roughly the same as your brain, science around the importance of our microbiome is growing each day. Here I introduce our microbiome and discuss signs and risk factors to microbiome imbalances.
What is a microbiome?
Your microbiome is an ecosystem, or a community of bugs: bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasites etc., that all keep each other in balance. The relationship between us and our microbiome is known as “symbiotic” – we need them, and they need us to survive.
Our microbiome has established a role in:
- Helping us break down and digest our foods
- Produce key vitamins, such as B12, thiamine, riboflavin and Vitamin K
- Keep our gut lining strong and healthy
- Interact directly with our immune system and help keep it in check
- A direct defense barrier against pathogens
- Support healthy mood through the gut-brain axis
- And so much more.
Needless to say, our microbiome is important, and I believe a balanced microbiome must be a part of the journey to finding vitality.
Signs and risk factor for an imbalance Microbiome
We’ve got unique microbiomes across numerous systems in our bodies. Our lungs, skin, vagina, and even reproductive organs have their own bugs – yes, you heard that right!
Our digestive tract houses the majority of our microbiome. Imbalances here may influence imbalances in other areas. Additionally, imbalances in the gut microbiome can result in the release of endotoxins into the blood, and influence the development of the chronic conditions listed above. Our gut health can give us a lot of useful signs of an imbalanced microbiome. There are also major advances in the testing gut microbiome for pathogens, overall diversity, and intestinal health.
Some signs of imbalances include:
- Irregular bowel movements
- Multiple food sensitivity
- Bloating, acid reflux, gas
- Abdominal pain
- Sensitivity to certain foods
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Chronic yeast or BV infections
- Skin rashes: eczema, candida, psoriasis
Your history can tell us a lot of information as well. There is an increased risk of developing imbalances in the gut microbiome in the following cases:
- History of antibiotic use
- Pharmaceutical use
- Dietary factors: Standard American Diet, low fiber, restrictive diets, the keto diet
- Long-standing stress
- Past infections (i.e. food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea)
How do I support an imbalanced Microbiome?
Microbiome optimization will depend on your clinical picture, and what the root cause of imbalance is. Our microbiome reset strategy utilizes microbiome testing, lifestyle, diet, and herbs for targeted, effective therapy. Stay tuned for part 2 talk more about this.
Dr. Ashley Damm
Naturopathic Doctor, Vancouver BC