Did you feed your gut microbiome today?

You may or may not know the answer to this… but by the end of this blog you will confidently know how to both support and feed your microbiome.

So, what is a microbiome?

The microbiome is a collection of Microbes, which are tiny living microorganisms; such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.

What might surprise you to learn, is that your entire body is actually teaming with microscopic life to keep us healthy. We actually have more microbial cells in our body than we do human cells… yes, you read that correctly. In fact, microbial cells outnumber our human cells by a factor of 10:1.

Wow! Am I right?

For today, let’s discuss the GUT Microbiome specifically.

Just like everything else, every microbiome is bio-individual, the composition of gut bugs can vary from person to person.

Fun fact; your gut microbiome is constantly changing throughout your life, and it’s affected by age, what foods you eat and even where you live.

WHY IS THE GUT MICROBIOME SO IMPORTANT

The gut microbiome has many important roles.

A healthy diversity of the right kinds of microorganisms in the gut is one of the most fundamental aspects of good health. If our microbiome isn’t happy, then our body isn’t going to be happy either.

This is why choosing foods that support and help the microbiome thrive is so important.

The gut microbiome impacts many important functions in the body. For example:

  • it controls blood sugar levels and cholesterol
  • fights off infections
  • boosts immune systems
  • improves digestion and absorption of vitamins. 
  • it also influences weight, mood and appetite.

As you can see, the friendly bacteria as they are called play various important roles. One role they have is to help to maintain balance in the biome by keeping the bad bacteria at bay. That means you get sick less often, and particularly when it comes to the really serious illnesses.

At the same time, they also help by breaking down food and aiding with the absorption of nutrients (they produce digestive enzymes!), and they even impact your weight loss, your mood, and focus. That’s because they produce hormones! Some people who struggle for years to lose weight, find that they are actually able to lose it very quickly once they change their gut bacteria profile!

AN IMABALANCED GUT MICROBIOME CAN LEAD TO DYSBIOSIS

If your microbiome is imbalanced, creating gut dysbiosis, meaning you have more ‘bad’ than ‘good’ gut bugs, you may experience: 

  • diarrhea/constipation
  • weight gain
  • mood disorders
  • flatulence
  • excess bloating
  • chronic ear infections
  • nail fungus
  • hormonal imbalances
  • yeast Infections

… and the list goes on.

Another reason to be mindful of your microbiome is that gut dysbiosis can lead to a variety of disease and other health implications, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • atherosclerosis
  • celiac disease
  • hypertension
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • insulin resistance
  • obesity
  • inflammation
  • type 2 diabetes
  • asthma
  • depression
  • eczema
  • anxiety

… and much more

A healthy diversity of the right kinds of microorganisms in the gut is one of the most fundamental aspects of good health. If our microbiome isn’t happy, then our body isn’t going to be happy either.

FACTORS THAT IMPACT OUR MICROBIOME

Major factors that affect our digestive microbiome include:

  • genetics
  • stress
  • pollution
  • pharmaceuticals/drugs
  • diet
  • illnesses (ex. covid, microbial exposures, lymes, etc)

All though we may not have control of our genetics, illness, and pollution. We can do the best we can to reduce the impact of the things we do have control over. We can choose foods that support the microbiome, as well as remove foods that negatively impact it. Develop a self-care routine that supports stress reduction. And we can be mindful of pharmaceutical drugs that we take.

Okay, on to the good stuff.

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR MICROBIOME

So more of the good bacteria is a REALLY good thing. Then the next question then is: how do you go about getting more?

Firstly, we want to make sure that we have a diverse diet:

Diverse diets = diverse gut microbiomes which = a HEALTHIER microbiome.

Make sure you choose a variety of healthy foods; such as leafy vegetables, healthy fats, fermented foods and sprouted grains too keep your microbiome happy.

In addition to eating a diverse diet, eating a diet that consists of high-quality whole foods have been linked with beneficial bacteria and a diverse microbiome that thrives….

I think it is important to mention here that pesticides and other chemicals cause havoc on the microbiome. So choosing organic and non-GMO products only BENEFITS the gut microbiome.

And lastly, getting plenty of fiber in your diet is essential. Ideally, you should get at least 25 grams (or more) of fiber every day. Fiber is important because it is broken down into short-chain fatty acids.

Why is short-chain fatty acids important?

Short-chain fatty acids have many health benefits. They keep the gut barrier healthy, stopping pathogens from coming in and helps boost the immune system. They also limit the growth of bad bacteria which lowers the risk of chronic disease.

Fiber-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, sprouted legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

NURTURE YOUR MICROBIOME

If you are looking to support and nurture your gut microbiome you should; seed, feed, and weed.

Say, what?

Let me explain.

To start you want to SEED.

This means that you are going to introduce ‘good’ bacteria into your system by introducing probiotics, which are actual bacteria themselves, which can be taken as a supplement or consumed in fermented foods which contain good bacteria like yogurt, kefir and kombucha.

Once you have introduce probiotics (the good bacteria) …

Then you want to FEED your gut microbiome.

You can do this by incorporating prebiotics into your diet which are the fiber and nutrients in your diet that the bacteria eat, and the types of carbohydrates that cannot be digested.

These types of foods pass through your intestines undigested so your good bacteria can feed off them.

Examples include legumes, onion, garlic, asparagus, nuts, seeds, whole grains and skins of fruits and vegetables.

And FINALLY you are going to WEED (which by the way doesn’t require gardening gloves).

You can accomplish this by limiting your sugar and junk food intake. It is important to be sure that we are not introducing foods that “bad” bacteria thrives off of.

So, just to reiterate, to NURTURE our Microbiome we want to SEED by introducing probiotics, FEED by incorporating prebiotics, and WEED by limiting highly processed and sugary foods.

Do this and you are on your way to a healthy balanced microbiome!

Now that we have talked about how to nurture our microbiome, lets look at some Fermented Foods, or Probiotics that we can obtain through our diet.

PROBIOTICS

Remember, probiotics are living microorganisms that are beneficial and can influence our gut by decreasing less beneficial bacteria and helping improve gut dysbiosis.

Most of us are familiar with fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt. Other options are:

  • Sourdough bread
  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Kimchi
  • Probiotic Pickles
  • Kombucha & Water kefir
  • Yogurt & Kefir (ideally from raw dairy)
  • (And you might be surprised to find out, I know I was) that cheddar cheese, Gouda, and feta cheese are a probiotic, as well as cottage cheese.

When choosing cheese look for the words “organic”, probiotic, or made from raw milk.

*side note* While the probiotic content of fermented foods is reason enough for us to include them in our diets, fermentation also offers a number of other perks, like enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients.

Just another reason to incorporate fermented food into your diet!

AND In addition to food-based probiotics, you can also incorporate probiotic supplements as well. In my practice (majority of the time) I recommend Microbiome Lab Mega Sporebiotic & HU58 to my clients.

Now let’s discuss FEEDING your microbiome because eating a diet designed to support your microbiome may result in improved overall health.

PREBIOTICS

I would like to note that it is important to incorporate a variety of prebiotic foods into your diet. This is because limiting the variety, limits the diversity in your gut microbiome. It could actually lead to some beneficial bacterial colonies dying off.

So be sure to choose a variety of prebiotic foods to incorporate into your daily diet.  

Include foods such as:

  • garlic and onions
  • artichokes
  • leafy greens
  • cooked & cooled rice & potatoes
  • bananas & plantains
  • apples
  • mushrooms
  • cruciferous veggies
  • chicory root
  • extra virgin olive oil

This is not an exhausted list, so I encourage you to research other prebiotic foods to incorporate into your diet.

This way you will be sure that all beneficial gut bacteria have the ability to thrive!

Now on to WEEDING your microbiome.

REMOVE OR REDUCE

This step should not be ignored or overlooked.

Just as it is important to include pro & prebiotics into our diet to support BENEFICIAL bacteria, it is just as important that we DO NOT introduce foods that “bad” bacteria thrives off of.

Bad bacteria thrives off of foods that are highly processed such as French fries, pasta, chips, fish crackers, white flour, fast food…

… the list goes on, and on AND on.

It is also important to avoid excess sugar that can be found in candy, cereals, sweetened juice, cookies, pop-tarts, donuts, fruit snacks, and soda.

And don’t be fooled by sugar-free (or diet) foods as they often times contain artificial sweetener, which is just as bad (if not worse) on your microbiome.

To sum it up we need to AVOID… a diet that consists of highly processed foods, because they invite the Yeastie Beasties into the microbiome where they thrive and cause havoc in a less diverse microbiome that has an overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Avoid creating a YEASTIE BEASTIE playground, and eat WHOLE FOODS!

GUT HEALTH IMPACTS OVERALL HEALTH

Back to the question I asked you earlier. Have you fed your microbiome today?

If your answer is no, FEAR NOT! It takes only two days to shift it… and… now you know what it takes to support a healthy thriving microbiome.

So, when you are thinking about your health, be sure to consider supporting your gut health as well, if not first. Believe it or not, the health of your gut influences your everyday life. Not only does it impact the health of your body, it also impacts how we think and feel about our daily experiences.

The bottom line here is, if you choose to eat foods that seed and feed your microbiome, both the microbiome (and you) will THRIVE.

Download the list of probiotic & prebiotic foods HERE.

If you would like to learn more about the microbiome watch the Food-for-Thought Friday episode: MICROBIOME where Mary Stein-Rosales (www.ideservehealth.com) and I discuss all things microbiome.