A person shapes their hands into a heart over their gut.
The trillions of microorganisms that live in your gut will influence body health, brain development, mood and more. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

You are not alone.

The human gastrointestinal tract contains trillions of bacterial cells, or about 10 times the amount of human cells in our entire body. This diverse biome includes microorganisms such as archaea, viruses and unicellular eukaryotes.

Sounds scary. Or even gross. But these little guys offer a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the human body to help it function at its best.

Your microbiome is first influenced by your mother’s diet and lifestyle when you’re in the womb. After you’re born, your microbiome diversity is shaped by foods, medications and chemicals. Even your mood can influence it.

Why are these microorganisms so important?

Some of the functions of the microbiome include:

  • Growth of the brain and nerves
  • Preventing pathogens from getting into our system
  • Helping to control our appetite
  • Digestion of fiber, carbs and proteins to provide energy
  • Producing B vitamins and vitamin K
  • Breaking down cholesterol, bile and some chemicals that might be in our food
  • Building the immune system
  • Building, repairing and strengthening the intestinal walls and cells
  • Influencing our mood

These are important tasks. When your gut is not healthy, your body is not healthy.

Some conditions related to poor gut health include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Obesity
  • Reflux
  • Asthma
  • Colitis/Crohn’s disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Liver disease

The power of the microbiome is truly amazing—and it’s worth giving it some love.

How can you develop a healthier microbiome? Follow the four Fs.

1. Fill up on fiber

The goal is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams for men. Aim for a variety of fiber-filled foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

2. Feed fermentation

Include fermented foods with natural probiotics like yogurts, kefir, miso, kombucha, or fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi.

3. Find focus

High stress can destroy some of the good bacteria in your gut. Incorporate stress management into your daily routine.

4. Fight fancies

When the sweets are calling, tell them to go. Excess sugars and refined foods will destroy your friendly bacteria.