Believe it or not, there are literally TRILLIONS of live microorganisms living in your intestinal tract, working to help you absorb nutrition from your food, manufacturing nutrients, creating vitamins and generally keeping your body healthy.
All of these trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material make up your gut biome, helping you not just digest your food, but also playing a role in other processes in your body, including your metabolism, your body weight, the regulation of your immune system, even your brain functions and mood.
Your gut biome is as individual to you as your fingerprints, although certain general types are common. These ‘enterotypes’ are like membership groups, and while lots of people belong to each, your own individual biome is all yours.
When Does Your Gut Biome Develop?
The bacteria that end up living and thriving in your intestines are determined by a variety of factors, and some research points to the probability that your biome starts to build before you’re born. After birth, your development has a direct impact on what bacteria you’ll find in your biome – whether you were breastfed or formula fed, whether you were delivered naturally or by Caesarean section, the genetics you inherit from your parents, and your parents’ health all play a part in building your own personal biome.
As you grow, from newborn through childhood and all the way into adulthood, your biome is affected by outside influences. Your own genetics as you grow may change your biome, along with stressful events in your life, your diet and any illnesses you go through. Everything affects you, and in ways you might never have known about until now. Your biome is a living, adapting, evolving community of microorganisms that both serve and survive because of you.
What Makes a Gut Biome Healthy?
There’s a lot we don’t know yet about the gut biome and the microorganisms we depend on so heavily, but we’re doing more research every day on the subject. We do know what some of the markers of a healthy biome are, though. A healthy gut that is working well allows the nutrients from your food to pass easily into the bloodstream from the intestines, and keeps the toxins and undigested food particles from passing into your bloodstream along with the nutrients. It also helps fight infections, and by doing so, helps keep inflammation in the body down.
Keeping your gut biome healthy and functioning well is easy enough for an adult who can make good choices about diet, exercise, lifestyle and stress levels, but for a newborn, it’s the parents who need to look out and be aware of the health of your little one’s tiny gut biome. Providing breast milk or formula, keeping track of your child’s signs of discomfort or irritability, introducing the right foods at the right stages of development, and sometimes helping out by providing probiotics to help your baby’s digestive system stay in balance can keep you less stressed and baby less likely to suffer from colic or other gastrointestinal disorders that often arise.