Your microbiome can have a huge impact on your health.
If you’ve ever heard people throwing around the term “microbiome,” you might have wondered what in the world they’re talking about. “Microbiome” describes the collection of the genes of all of the microbes that live in and on your body. One helpful way to think of it is to imagine your body as having its own ecosystem full of microbes.
Where are all of these microbes hiding? Most of them live in your gut—in places like your colon, stomach, and small intestine. There, the microbes do things like help you get energy from your food, support your digestive system so it can operate efficiently, and protect your body against pathogens that could make you sick. There is also a small percentage of microbes found outside your gut. Those strengthen your immune system, help the function of organs like the brain, liver, kidney, and skin, regulate hormone levels, and affect the circulation of blood lipids.
For all the work your microbiome does, it’s also somewhat delicate. Your microbiome develops and changes as you interact with your environment. Additionally, as your body changes, so do the microbes that call it home. Factors like the food you eat, the diseases you get, and the stress you feel can all affect the microbes.
Why should you care? Disruptions in the microbiome have been associated with gastrointestinal issues, and emerging evidence shows that it may play a role in diabetes, allergies, and even depression and anxiety. To support your microbiome, make sure you eat a lot of different healthy foods. A high-fiber diet and fermented foods are thought to be especially good for your gut. And keep up with other healthy habits, like exercising regularly. Your gut—and your body—will thank you.
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