Mysteries of the microbiome


Have you heard of the mysterious “microbiome”, and are perhaps wondering what it is, and how you can support it?

While scientists have known about the human microbiome for many years, it has only become a topic “in the news” within the past couple of decades. 

What is it?

According to Merriam-Webster, a microbiome is “a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms in or on the human body.”

So, do we have a miniature world within us?  Yes! 

  • We have 10 times more microorganisms in and on our bodies than there are cells in our bodies! 
  • The ‘climate’ of our bodies supports them, and they, in turn, help us! 
  • It’s a symbiotic relationship.  We both depend on each other to be healthy. 
  • This same interdependence is found in larger ecosystems, like forests, rivers, and oceans. 

There are more of them in our colon (large intestine) than anywhere else in us.  What are they doing in there?

  • They digest food that we can’t digest, and make substances that actually feed the cells of our colons.  The substances that they make for us also decrease inflammation, help us absorb some minerals, and contribute to overall colon health.
  • They make some vitamins for us, like Vitamin K and B vitamins.  B vitamins, interestingly, have the role of helping our own enzymes work properly!  Talk about symbiotic!
  • They keep our colon “in balance” by preventing bag bugs from gaining the upper hand.

What can we do to keep our friendly flora happy?

  • Eat foods that are high in prebiotics: high soluble-fiber foods, like fruits and veggies, beans, lentils, barley, and oats.  These foods and others have fibers that we can’t digest (called prebiotics), but our microbe friends can and do!
  • Eat foods that are high in probiotics:  fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchee, kefir, buttermilk, miso, fermented veggies.  These foods can help your gut microbiome keep its healthy balance of good guys!

In short, the foods that we know are good for us in many ways, are also good for our microbiome, and that’s good for us, too!

FREE CLASS: What in the World is the Microbiome? How Does it Affect Me? Do I Affect it?

Maryann Ludlow, RD, CD, CDE and Leah Pryor, Chef Educator, University of Vermont Medical Center

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “microbiome” online or in the media, and you’d like to know more about it. This class will explore not only what it is, but how it affects our health, and what foods support a healthy microbiome. Enjoy and learn from hands-on preparation of foods and beverages that make our microbiome flourish with the “right” microbes.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 11, 6:00-7:30pm 

WHERE: UVM Medical Center, Main Campus, Davis Auditorium 


Maryann Ludlow, RD, CD, CDE is a registered dietitian at the UVM Medical Center.

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