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What Does Gut Microbiome Have to Do With Your Health?

You are full of bacteria, literally. In fact, you have more bacteria that live in your gut than cells in your body. Microbiome refers to the group of up to microbes, or 1,000 bacterial species, that live in your body. This bacteria helps with digestion, destroys harmful bacteria and helps control your immune system.

When you eat, only a small portion of nutrients are absorbed through the walls of your stomach. A majority of the work occurs in your small intestine. Here, your gut breaks down these nutrients necessary for your body to thrive. The gut bacteria produces enzymes that help break down indigestible carbohydrates. In fact, by the time your food leaves the small intestine, it will have absorbed 90 percent of all nutrients.

The link between microbiome and its role in disease continues to be researched. Yet, studies have shown its impact on both physiological health and even mental health. A healthy microbiome can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

If your gut is trying to tell you something, try altering the microbiome with changes to your diet. Avoid a high-fat diet and limit processed foods. A Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been associated with a healthier microbiome. You can also incorporate fiber-rich foods, which are carbohydrates your body cannot digest. These foods can provide lasting energy to fuel you for the day. You can also try foods with probiotics.

- Emanuelle A. Bellaguarda, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, Inflammatory Bowel Disease