Your Body, Your Microbiome and You

prebiotin_microbiomeImage: PNNL

When you were first born, the bacteria in your colon began changing and proliferating. As you began to eat more, the type of foods you ate changed their makeup; research increasingly shows that a healthy lower gut means better overall wellness. Today, this same microbiota is living in your body and affecting your health — and the foods you eat not only power your body and your mind, but they affect the healthy mix of these important organisms.

What Gut Bacteria Do for You

Your lower gut contains pounds — yes, pounds — of tiny microbes that researchers are increasingly realizing play a huge role in your overall health. Not only does a healthy bacterial mix affect regularity, the latest studies indicate it also affects obesity, appetite, metabolic disease, GI disorders, immunity and more. Science is on the cusp of a brand new frontier of research, as only a very small percentage of these bacteria have been assigned roles. In fact, the purposes of fully 90 percent of bacteria in one Danish study are, as of now, unknown.

Challenging Dogma

Past medical practice included teaching future physicians that fetuses are born sterile — in other words, with no bacteria present in the lower gut. Now, however, increasing numbers of medical scientists believe that pregnant mothers actually “seed” their fetuses with gut bacteria, according to the New York Times. Fecal matter collected from babies who had not yet had their first meal consistently contained bacteria — bacteria that should not exist, according to the century-old dogma that doctors assumed correctly.

There is other evidence to support this radical notion. Amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, and placentas have all been shown to contain bacteria. An essay authored by researchers at Vanderbilt University observed that most creatures in the animal kingdom transmit bacteria to their unborn babies, yielding important clues as to how human mothers protect their unborn children from disease.

Fertilizing Your Bacteria

As a result, maintaining a high-fiber, low-saturated-fat diet remains more important now than ever before and especially during pregnancy. Fiber fertilizes your lower gut’s healthy bacteria and diminishes the presence of the bad. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat nearly enough fiber, either for dietary reasons or taste preferences. The good news is that you can add more plant fiber to your diet and positively affect your lower gut’s bacterial mix — and protect yourself and your unborn child against disease — by incorporating a fiber-rich supplement into your dietary choices.

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