When you think of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, you may think of disease. While some of these microorganisms are dangerous invaders, others are actually good for our health. The microorganisms that live in and on your body play some essential roles in both your gut health and overall health.
This article offers an overview of the microbiota and its effects on your gut health, plus some all-natural ways to encourage a healthy microbiome.
What and Where Are Microbiota?
Microbiota are the thousands of different species of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that make their home inside the human body. In a healthy person, most of these microbes are beneficial, but some promote disease. Together, this mix of microbes makes up the microbiome.
When people talk about the microbiome, they’re often referring to the gut microbiome. That’s because the largest numbers of microbes are found in the small and large intestines. But there are also microbes throughout the body, such as on the skin, inside the mouth, and inside the nose.
In total, there could be anywhere from 10 to 100 trillion microbes in the human body. To put that figure into perspective, recent estimates put the number of human cells in the body at around 38 trillion.
What Roles Do Microbiota Play in Your Gut Health?
The bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome have been called “a new organ system” due to their significance. Beneficial microbes can prevent disease-causing microbes from taking hold inside the gut, in part because they help enhance your immune response. Research also suggests that an abnormal gut microbiome can contribute to inflammatory bowel disease, including conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The gut microbiome may have far-reaching effects outside your gut, too. Scientists have identified links between this new organ system and:
- Heart health.DNA from gut bacteria has been found in the plaque that builds up in the inner lining of arteries, suggesting that the gut microbiome plays a role in cardiovascular disease.
- Skin health. The gut microbiome is suspected to play a role in the development of certain skin conditions, like acne and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
- Mental health. Through the gut-brain axis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome could contribute to mental health conditions like depression.
How to Encourage a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Each person’s gut microbiome is unique. Your microbiome is initially determined based on the unique mix of microorganisms you were exposed to as an infant. Over the years, the foods you eat, and your environmental exposures, can change your microbiome. Some changes to the microbiome can promote better overall health, while other changes may have negative health effects.
Eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle can help encourage positive changes in the gut microbiome. Keep reading for some specific, science-backed strategies.
Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
Researchers have identified many healthy lifestyle habits that can alter the gut microbiome. For a healthier gut, try the following tips:
- Eat a varied diet. It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating the same healthy foods every day. But since more diverse diets have been linked to more diverse microbiomes, try to mix it up for your gut health.
- Reduce stress levels. Chronic stress can have severe negative effects on your health, including your gut health. A recent study of healthy healthcare workers reported that chronic stress exposure caused lingering imbalances in the gut microbiome. Taking a cold plunge in Ice Barrel is a great way to de-stress.
- Get active. It’s well-established that regular exercise is good for your overall health, but interestingly, it might benefit your gut health, too. Some observational studies have reported greater gut microbiome diversity in people who are more physically active.
- Stay hydrated. The amount of water a person drinks may have an effect on the makeup of microorganisms in their gut. One study found that people who reported regularly drinking more than 1 L (2.1 pt) of water a day had lower levels of the pathogen Campylobacter than people who drank less water.
- Get more sleep. Do you often wake up during the night or sleep fewer hours than you should? A review of current science found that both habits have been associated with an imbalance in the gut microbiome, and improving sleep could help support a healthy gut.
How Cold Water Immersion May Play a Role In Gut Health
Cold water immersion is a popular post-workout ritual for athletes, but the potential benefits go far beyond promoting recovery after exercise. This practice could help boost your overall wellness, including your gut health, in part due to its effects on the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is a major nerve that runs between your brain and your abdomen. It sends signals back and forth between your brain and gut, and it’s can be naturally stimulated by a cold plunge. Stimulating the vagus nerve may have positive effects on both the brain and the gut.
Using Ice Barrel to Support Gut Health
A refreshing cold plunge in an Ice Barrel is an easy way to supplement your gut health routine. Taking a dip in this purpose-built cold therapy tool takes less than 15 minutes of your day and can help you relieve stress or even stimulate your vagus nerve.
The Invitation to Adventure
We are inviting you on an extraordinary adventure to explore the depths of your potential and experience the incredible results Ice Barrel will produce in your life. Not just for you, but for the ones you love most and the things you are most passionate about.