Your Gut Microbiome and How It Impacts Your Health
By Galit Zarco, MS RD LDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
There’s been a lot of buzz around the gut microbiome lately, and for good reason! It’s
estimated that we have 100 trillion bacterial cells living in our intestines.1 These organisms
protect our health and immune system, assist us with digestion, regulate our bowel
movements, prevent bloating and promote a healthy weight. Research shows that an
imbalance in the gut, like when you take antibiotics, can wipe out many, if not most of our
protective bacteria, or “flora” as they call it. This weakens our system and puts us at risk for
catching a cold more often, or even developing chronic diseases such as, obesity,
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes and heart disease
to name a few.(4)
Let’s break down the basics and discuss how you can improve and keep your gut happy and
Benefits of our gut bacteria?
The bacteria in our guts have a number of very critical functions. One of the most powerful
jobs they have is at the cellular level. Our gut bacteria can inhibit the growth of a pathogen (a
virus or a bacteria) by competing with their cell binding sites to prevent these harmful
organisms from gaining access to our healthy cells.3 Our gut bacteria also helps us digest our
food by providing us with important nutrients, processes the vitamins we take, metabolizes
drugs, detoxifies carcinogens, helps with cell renewal, and supports the immune system.2
Stress + Microbiome
Interestingly, there has been new research that shows a direct link between brain function and
mental health with the level of gut bacteria in the body. Having a low bacterial count, (i.e.
from antibiotics) has been shown to influence the way our nervous system reacts to stress.
Not surprisingly, stress-related conditions including anxiety, depression, and panic attacks
have been associated with a an imbalance of gut microbes.
Probiotics + Health
Our gut microbes do a lot of heavy lifting, so we should show them some love. One way to do
this is by taking a multi-strain probiotic with at least 50 billion cultures daily for adults and 5
billion for children. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can maintain and restore the good
bacteria in our gut. Certain strains are more appropriate for specific health conditions, so talk
to a nutritionist if you have questions on which brand is best, how many strains, how many
times per day, etc. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, try adding more foods to
your diet that contain live probiotic strains like grass-fed yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and
For additional guidance on improving your health & wellness goals, contact Registered
Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist, Galit Zarco, MS, RD, LDN at www.eatlivenutrition.com.
1. Ursell LK, Metcalf JL, Parfrey LW, Knight R. Defining the Human Microbiome. Nutrition
reviews. 2012;70(Suppl 1):S38-S44. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00493.x.
2. Yang. J. The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a
human. National Human Genome Research Institute website. https://
of-what-constitutes-a-human/. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed August 2,
3. Bull MJ, Plummer NT. Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and
Disease. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. 2014;13(6):17-22.
4. Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Current
opinion in gastroenterology. 2015;31(1):69-75. doi:10.1097/MOG.