To Your Health
September, 2023 (Vol. 17, Issue 09)
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Your Microbiome Matters

By Editorial Staff

The microbiome is increasingly in the news these days, but most people still don't understand what it is – much less why it matters. That's discouraging because the human microbiome – and particularly how we humans take care of it – is critical to our overall health.

Let's start by answering the question of, "What is the microbiome?" Per Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the microbiome consists of "trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) of thousands of different species. These include not only bacteria but fungi, parasites, and viruses. In a healthy person, these "bugs" coexist peacefully, with the largest numbers found in the small and large intestines but also throughout the body."

The key is keeping these trillions of microorganisms in a healthy balance, which can be challenging – particularly with overuse of antibiotics, overconsumption of processed, high-fat and sugary foods, etc. If the microbiome is out of balance, health issues can manifest, not the least of which are heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and general inflammation.

Your fitness and biological age can also be influenced by microbiome health, suggest researchers after investigating the gut microbiomes of 80 fit adults (38-84 years of age). Microbiome diversity was associated with higher levels of fitness and lower biological age compared with participants whose GI microbiomes reflected less diversity. (Biological age is a measure of age based on overall health, vs. chronological age, which is your age from birth to the present). The authors observed:

"[In] general, accelerated epigenetic aging can be linked to the abundance of pro-inflammatory and other pathogenic bacteria and decelerated epigenetic aging or high fitness level can be linked to the abundance of anti-inflammatory bacteria."

The takeaway is clear: Don't ignore your microbiome! It matters more than you think. Your doctor can tell you more about the microbiome and what you can do more – or less – of to promote microbiome health.