Microbial diversity means having a wide range of microbes residing in our intestines/gut microbiome. Our gut microbiome are inhabited by 500 different species of microbes that make up 100 trillion lifeforms. That is more than the 37.2 trillion human cells that we have. So we are actually more microbial than we are human.
Researchers have shown that maintaining those 500 species is not only what prevents us from developing diseases but it increases our longevity. So, by doing this, we are able to live well into our 90’s and be free of chronic disease. That’s because those microbes that make up our gut microbiome are like soldiers. They protect us from many forms of pathogens, including bad bacteria, viruses & fungus. They have other purposes as well. Some of these beneficial microbes extract nutrients from the food we eat so our body is able to absorb them. Some make immune cells that protect us against cancer
Disruption of the normal balance of these microbes is linked to a host of unwanted conditions such as obesity, Inflammatory bowel conditions (IBD), neurological conditions, micronutrient deficiencies & cancer. In addition to these conditions, low microbial diversity can cause fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, headaches, insomnia. So it can really drain our quality of life.
There are several things that can disrupt the diversity and cause those 500 species to die. Antibiotics are the number one cause. Antibiotics cannot distinguish between good bacteria and bad ones. They devastate the diversity. What remains are high amounts of antibiotic resistant strains which causes a host of other problems.
Antibiotics are necessary at times and they can be the difference between life or death. But, according to the CDC, 50% of all antibiotics prescribed are prescribed for the wrong reason. Antibiotics cannot fight viruses nor fungus. When antibiotics are prescribes for the flu (virus), the only thing they accomplishing is destroying the diversity.
Another thing that can destroy the diversity of the gut microbiome is a poor diet that is high in packaged, processed foods and low in a variety of fresh unprocessed foods, fruits and vegetables. When you have 500 microbial species living in your gut, it is just like having 500 different types of pets that you have to feed and they all have a different diet. So having a variety in your diet is essential to keeping the diversity high and alive. If you eat the same food everyday you will be starving off essential microbes that require different nutrients from us.
Take good care of your 500 pets; eat a varied diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetable, always question your doctor if the antibiotic is necessary and you will reap the rewards of health and longevity.
Karen Graham, RDN