This time of year, we’re all starting to think about growing things — fruits, vegetables, flowers. But don’t forget to tend to the little micro organisms that grow inside your body, too.
Just like spending time outside, eating fresh food and working the earth contribute to your wellness. The health of your microbiome reflects your overall health.
There are trillions of cells that are the product of our genes, making up our bodies. But our bodies are also, by necessity, made of hundreds of trillions of micro-organisms. Some are good and some are…not as good.
This balance is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding couples since they will determine how their babies are colonized.
Good food only grows when we plant it, nurture it, or allow it a good environment. You can nurture the living beings inside you much like you do your garden in the backyard.
Tending our inner gardens matters because these hundreds of trillions of living beings inside us help run our bodies.
Your Brain & Bacteria
The microbiota of your body, especially in the gut, talk to your brain. This means those bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live inside you influence everything about the way your body works.
These organisms communicate with the central nervous system. They do this through the nerves themselves, internal body fluids, and by way of immune and metabolic functioning.
Your inner garden helps determine your mood, your ability to think, your experience of pain, and how much fat you hold on to. It also directly impacts your immune function.
Have you ever noticed that you get sick more when you are stressed?
Plants in the garden that are not well-provided for attract more pests. One starts getting a little sickly, and all the sudden that’s the one covered in bugs.
Stress influences the hormones, chemicals, and neural workings of your body. The good bacteria are less likely to thrive when you are chronically stressed.
Even two hours of stress has a measurable impact on the microbiome. Pathogenic bacteria multiply when the good ones are under stress. Your digestive function is impacted, and you’re more likely to get sick.
Your Microbiotic Profile
Everyone has a different microbiotic profile. Some of us have lots of one kind of bacteria, while other have very little. You may have a veritable pharmacy of available microbiota, or you may have only a relative few types or strains.
Living an industrial, modern, western lifestyle apparently has led to fewer strains. We spend less time exposed to the elements, we triple-wash, nuke, and pasteurize our food. Our food has pesticide reside on it. If it kills pests, it probably kills microbes.
We lead generally stressful lifestyles. Compared to non-industrialized communities, the diversity of our gut colonies is pitifully low.
We can diversify our colonies by spending more time outside, playing in the dirt, eating raw foods, eating fermented foods, and slowing down.
Good Gut Flora
You can’t expect your prize tomatoes or succulent blueberries to grow in a bucket of sand and ash. Likewise, the good bacteria need a healthy environment. Tend the garden of your gut!
- Eat less sugar.
- Eat less white flour and starches.
- Eat fermented foods.
- Take a probiotic.
- Avoid antibiotics when you can.
- Take probiotics after a round of antibiotics.
- Slow down and calm down.
- Take time each day to breathe, meditate, nap, etc.
Related: Probiotic Therapy for Eczema
Birth & Baby Organisms
Vaginas are one of the nicest places for microorganisms. Babies are born out vaginas for a reason. The inoculation of microbiota at birth helps program a baby’s brain and establish a strong microbial colony to support digestion and immune function.
Babies born through the abdominal wall are not exposed to the variation and quantity of microbes they would be if born vaginally. Some families who have cesarean birth are choosing to inoculate the baby at birth by rubbing their little faces with gauze previously placed in the vagina.
Babies also get inoculated from skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.
Babies also benefit from calm mothers. Stress is known to decrease the good bacteria Lactobacillus in the vagina. Babies born to mothers with less Lactobacillus than nature intended have changes in their amino acid profiles and in the way their bodies metabolize energy. Scientists think these changes may contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders.
If you work with pregnant women, be sure to share information about the microbiome with your clients. We can make a significant difference without stressing about our lifestyle. Some of these suggestions for nourishing the infant’s microbiome are very easy to do and make a measurable difference.
Nurture Your Baby’s Garden:
- Eat well in pregnancy.
- Take a probiotic.
- Avoid antibiotics in pregnancy and labor when possible.
- Have a vaginal birth.
- If possible, have a cesarean after labor has begun.
- Use your own linens and clothing at the birth place.
- Minimize touching of the vaginal area in labor by caregivers.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin many hours a day for the first 3 days.
- Don’t bathe the baby for at least 24 hours.
- Minimize handling of the baby in the first weeks by non-family members.
Photo credit: Flickr/CC