Your body is home to an extraordinary ecosystem of trillions of bacteria and other microbes. This is your microbiome.
It begins to form before you are born and matures around age three, but its composition fluctuates based on your lifestyle and age. Many external factors can affect the diversity of your microbiome and therefore your overall health.
A balanced diet rich in fiber and fresh, unprocessed foods is a great way to support a healthy microbiome. Fiber-rich foods nourish your bacterial friends and help them multiply.
Our busy 21st century Western lifestyle affects our microbiome health. Stress reduces the number of beneficial lactic acid bacteria. Processed and low-fiber foods can alter our gut flora, as can a lack of exercise.
Antibiotics are an effective way to treat bacterial infections because they limit the number of harmful bacteria that make us sick. While they can help us fight off infection-causing bacteria, they can also alter the good bacteria in our gut.
Your microbiome starts to lose its diversity as you age, especially after age 70. Different species began to dominate, and the population of beneficial microbes generally declined.
Your microbiome changes with you. This is important because when you make healthier lifestyle choices, you can help support a healthier microbiome.
Cultured foods like yogurt, pickles, kombucha, and sourdough bread are particularly good sources of live microbes that help maintain the "good" bacteria in your gut.