You do realize that there are hundreds of thousands of tiny organisms living within our bodies, right?  Honestly, did you know that?  (Or are you just nodding your head in agreement?)  Well, there are. We, often think that these little organisms are bad. The mere thought of bacteria or yeast growing inside us can make some of us freak out, but what you may not know is that not all tiny organism are harmful or created equal; in fact, some of them are essential for human life itself. These little micro-organisms or microbes live inside our bodies and do wonderful things within promoting the wellbeing of our bodies. All of these friendly microbes collectively make up the microbiome (a very hot topic these days) - a collection of organisms that needs to be treated kindly, yes I said, kindly.

The microbiome is like a little factory at work full steam, and the microbes are the ones doing the job, they’re workers. Together they do some fantastic manufacturing inside our bodies. They could also be called the vigilant protectors of our inner wellness, the gut knows. The cons are that, although they may sound like fighters, they can be manipulated, (like what you might try to do with your kids when you’re super late for an appointment and you just want them to get into the car, here have this Cliff bar!) controlled and altered by external mechanisms that surround them, and this, in turn, can hinder their performance. But I'll get to that in a bit.

According to studies, our microbiome has a big responsibility in taking care of our gut health. A gut rich in microbes would mean a healthy stomach and better health. An increased number of healthy microbes help prevent problems like inflammation, obesity and other issues connected to your immune system. As I previously mentioned, all good microbes play a safeguarding role, that's how they help with immunity.  Here is how I discovered the importance of the microbiome if you've been following me for any length of time, then perhaps you know for the past twenty years I've suffered from autoimmune issues.  My gut, not so happy, my factory workers have simply gone on strike. That's not all though, as far as the gut is concerned, our microbiome plays intense roles in food digestion and vitamin and chemical production. Seriously, they’re busy little workers, imagine everything that is going on in there!  How they process everything is pretty complex. But understanding the functions and mechanisms of your microbiome, and the environmental factors that come into play provides the ability for easy diagnosis of diseases, complications, and treatment. The latest research suggests that by addressing the microbiome and giving it the right care and treatment we will increase the possibilities of disease prevention and cure, yeah!

Now, what about our external microbiome? The moment you’re born into this world, bodies of microbiome start colonizing your outer body.

WHAT?  Are you telling me that they’re on the outside too, Lane?

Yes, exactly.  Most of them come from your mother’s birth canal. If a baby is born through a C-section, the baby is likely to get some of the skin microbes from the mother. Hence this is a bigger conversation, one that could be quite controversial as there is a tribe of people who believe that it is absolutely essential for babies to be bathed in the microbes as they are birthed.  Babies born C-section are literally swiped up from the mother and dabbed with antibacterial swabs, not the mother’s tiny microbes who assist in protection, they miss out on these key impactful organisms that fight for our immunity.  I know this sounds a bit over the top but stay with me, a growing child starts getting microbes from anywhere or anyone they come into contact with, and so our microbiome is subjected to a lot of change until it comes to certain stability at adulthood.

Skin microbes live on the outermost layer of our skin. Like I said, some of them are completely harmless while some are like little ninjas who fight harmful microbes that are trying to come in contact with our bodies. These heroic microbes produce poisonous chemicals that help fight off other microbes - the bad ones. Studies also tell us those good skin microbes don’t just conquer any part of our skin and start dwelling there, but they look for specific areas on our skin that provide ‘favourable conditions’ for microbes to dwell in. Our microbiome is kind of like a shield of protection and that’s like one of the coolest facts about our bodies that we’d hardly ever known!

Now, are you getting just how important it is to take care of these little lifesavers? If they’re going to continue protecting our bodies, we need to be protecting them!  

Isn't it a fact that the stronger and more resilient you become, the better you will do when under pressure?  Think about your daily stress levels, the more you care for your microbiome, the more likely you'll able to deal with that Jackass who just stole your parking spot!  Your microbiome is subjected to danger and destruction everyday, and unfortunately, most of these dangers are results of poor lifestyle choices, patterns, and habits that you can most likely control. (Yes, I said, control). Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, living a sedentary lifestyle, (ie. no consistent exercise) everyday stress (that jackass who stole your parking spot, your employees who are late, your husband who is always late…) and anxiety are all reported to have significant effects on our microbiome and the activity of our microbiome. Is any of this ringing a little wakeup bell? What are you eating every day, anything green on your plate, at all?  Are you exercising?  When your regular doctor(s) advised you on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and gave you fair warning about staying in shape, sooner, rather than later they were unknowingly also talking about maintaining a healthy microbiome. Hurrah!

Have you thought, Okay Lane, what can I do to help these little microbes?  

Well, let’s develop and maintain a good microbiome!  We know that the microbiome keeps working to keep us in good health; in turn, we also know that we need to be doing the right things and maintaining the correct practices to keep our microbiome going. So, what exactly are the right practices? What are the things we need to be doing ‘right'?  It’s simple.

One of the primary things we need to be focussing on is our diet. Adding more greens and keeping your diet plant-based can help you greatly in this process.  That doesn’t mean you should be eating a boring bunch of green leaves every day. Diversity in your diet is good and highly advisable, don't cheat yourself. Diversity in your nutrition levels promotes diversity within your microbiome too. A diverse microbiome is always good to have, especially in the healing processes of illness and disease. Include some fermentable fiber and complex carbohydrates in your diet as well. Yogurt, kefir, and cheese are easy to find and easy to eat, especially on the go, in the car, and between meetings, but you want to tread lightly with the dairy products, especially if you are sensitive to dairy or are backed up in the microbiome.  Keep the variety, just don't overdo it and eat a whole tub of yogurt or eat an entire block of cheese, you know that wouldn’t be right!

Also, try to become aware of eating more probiotics. Probiotics boost the health and growth of your microbiome, and they also help in the replacement of affected microbes. When your microbiome becomes damaged due to an illness or disease, an increased intake of probiotics is highly recommended to help with recovery.

The next thing you might want to start focussing on is getting enough sleep. Sleep helps repair damaged cells. Lack of sleep and sleep deprivation can cause imbalances in the microbiome eventually leading to inflammation and other complications including chances of cardiovascular disease. Further, it has been proven that loss of sleep can aggravate certain disease conditions.  A good 7 hours of sleep is recommended to keep your microbiome happy and active.  Remember what I talk about in my coaching program, in bed, asleep by 10:00pm! 

You might not want to hear this but, exercise is key in keeping fit, and exercise also helps your microbiome! This isn't something new, I talk about exercise all the time. Sometimes it's the perfect solution to many health related problems, given that it's done correctly. According to studies, the chemical release due to muscle contraction can help with immunity enhancement due to an anti-inflammatory effect. It's also said to improve many complications including cardiovascular health, exercise is simply the best.

I'm not sure how many times I have to talk about stress, but seriously this is one of our biggest challenges in today's world.  Avoid stress to avoid problems! Stress can have unpleasant effects on many of the body's systems including your microbiome. The strong link between your microbiome and the immune system could double the effects and problems caused to one of them, which means the decline of one could lead to the decline of the other. This is highly evident in the case of stress and strain. Too much stress can affect your microbiome that can eventually lead to weakened immunity. Experts highly recommend engagement in relaxation, find activities to soothe you mentally and breathe freely. Smile, breath and relax and live longer!  Remember the article about smiling I wrote about?!          

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Speaking of stress relief let me include some commonly overlooked factors. Most people travel the world as means of relaxation and in pursuit of peace and tranquillity, and connection with friends and family. (At least I do.) You deserve time off, but you might want to take necessary precautions too. Travel increases your chances of contracting and spreading infectious diseases, mild and severe. Personal and environmental hygiene is the key to safeguarding yourself from such risks wherever you are and wherever you go. I guess this is where you'd need to grab handy little sanitizers, just chuck them in your travel bag! BUT wait, don't overdo it, please don't be the one who is constantly wiping with the sanitary disinfectant. You can always meander to the bathroom and use good kol' fashion soap and water. Be smart about your hygiene. The chemicals in the wipes are not the best to be using every second, and they will definitely begin to wipe out your precious microbiome if you become a clean freak!                                                             

Remember, your microbiome is a vital part of your ecosystem -- your body’s entire health and wellbeing depend on how strong your microbiome is.  Your microbiome  is constantly thinking, and tracking everything you do, and even sends your “red” flags of warning. (Think about when you eat something that’s not quite right, and suddenly you have gut feeling, hmmm should I stop… BUT no you continue chowing on that bowl of refried beans and rice in hopes that all is well, only to find yourself an hour later not so right!)  Our guts are smart!  

I want you to start imagining your microbiome like your protective superhero shield that has been gently placed around you, and anything that begins to approach, invade or attack your body bounces back - that’s how incredible your microbiome can be!  

With lots of new studies out there, and since this area of the body is only recently being investigated I have to share that we have to be our own best advocate, we have to take care of this part of our bodies.  We do that by participating in Practical Clean Living!  (You’ve got this, take care.)

Until next time!