Did you know most of the cells that make up your body aren’t actually human cells?
That’s because a human body contains more microbes than it does human cells. Microbes come in all shapes and sizes and include bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Due to their size, these microbes only make up about 1-3% of an average adult’s body mass.
The most dense microbe population in the human body can be found in your gut where about 40 trillion bacterial cells live. This large community of bacteria, alongside viruses and fungi, are known as your gut microbiota, or microbiome.
Not all bacteria is bad, but certain bad bacteria (called pathogens) can be found in your gut and all over your body and could contribute to ailments. Your gut microbiota plays a significant role in your health, helping you maintain digestive health and a healthy immune system.
Research suggests that imbalances or activity in your gut bacteria might also be responsible for some other conditions, including, but not limited to, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, depression, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases and heart disease.
Although more conclusive research is needed, there is an increasing volume of research that indicates that taking care of your gut bacteria is important for maintaining your overall health.
Thankfully there are a number of steps you can take in order keep your gut bacteria in good condition or to reverse any damage that might have been caused.
Introduce more fiber into your diet
The fiber we eat feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Our gut bacteria feasts on fiber, especially these two different types:
Fructans are high fiber carbohydrates found in onions, garlic, wheat and some other plant foods. These foods are particularly beneficial to your gut when not cooked for too long as the heat breaks down the fiber.
Cellulose is an insoluble fiber meaning your body does not digest it. Cellulose is usually found in the tough parts of fruit and vegetables that we throw away (e.g. broccoli stems, carrot peels, asparagus stalks). Including these peels and stems in our diets can help keep your gut healthy.
Introduce more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet
Gut inflammation is often a result of undigested food. Take time to enjoy your food and chew slowly to ensure you digest the nutrients properly. Some medical conditions are said to correlate with inflammation in the gut. Although it can be difficult to completely eliminate the bad stuff such as sugar and alcohol, there are a number of ways you can counteract this inflammation with slight adjustments to your diet. Plenty of foods are optimal for reducing or avoiding inflammation in the gut. Make sure you’re getting enough one ingredient foods, or whole foods. Fruit, especially grapes and cherries, and vegetables, namely broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are all excellent choices. Turmeric and cinnamon, as well as other spices, are also useful for this purpose and can be a delicious addition to any stew, soup or curry. Also beneficial are healthy fats from Omega 3’s (e.g. canola oil, walnuts, fish, avocados).
Reduce your intake of refined sugar
Studies remain inconclusive regarding the impact of sugar on the microbiome. However, studies have shown that diets high in processed foods and added sugars decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This also leads to cravings of high sugar foods which could then impact gut bacteria even further. High amounts of processed sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup found in fizzy drinks and other processed foods, has been linked to increased inflammation in the body.
Probiotics are live microorganisms. They are the beneficial bacteria that naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract. A good probiotic will provide optimal good bacteria to protect against inflammation and support immunity and healthy digestive function. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso soup, and kefir are great dietary sources of probiotics. Kombucha and low alcohol red wines are also good sources of probiotics. You can also get probiotics in powder, liquid and pill form which could be an easier route if you wish to make sure you get a daily amount of probiotic. In order for the gut bacteria to stay alive, they need to feed on prebiotics.
Prebiotics are a form of fibre that help feed the good gut bacteria cells. They are undigestable plant fibers that go through your small intestine undigested. Basically, these prebiotics act as a fertiliser for the good bacteria in order for the good bacteria to thrive. Most people consume prebiotics without realising. Most foods that are high in fiber are also often high in prebiotics.However not all of these foods are fermentable in your colon. Some of the best foods to include to ensure you are getting prebiotic through your diet are raw chicory root, raw leeks, raw garlic, raw and cooked onions, and baked wheat flour. Similarly to probiotics, if you are finding it hard to include prebiotics in your diet, there are supplements in the form of powders and tablets.
Exercise Caution with antibiotics
Antibiotics are well established drugs for treating diseases caused by bacteria. They work by destroying or slowing down the growth of bacteria, but as you may know, they also kill off the good bacteria in your gut. Antibiotic use can be unavoidable and are prescribed very often but if you are going to use antibiotics it is important to remember that it can take up to six months for your gut microbes to recover. Taking probiotics while taking antibiotics can help to maintain healthy gut bacteria. Eat foods that will boost your microbes after your course of antibiotics is finished, such as the probiotic and prebiotic foods mentioned above.
Drink some homemade bone broth
This one might sound a little unusual, but recent studies have shown that drinking bone broth can be helpful for healing your gut bacteria. It doesn’t have to be one particular type of bone broth either; it can be fish, meat or fowl. Bone broth is made by cooking meat or fish in water, typically with vegetables, for an extended period of time. It can be left as little as three hours or up to as much as 72 hours. Although there is not too much evidence to go on, it is thought that the gelatin and other nutrients in bone broth help heal your gut.
Try Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an option for those with less demanding schedules. This is when you fast for a period regularly, such as eating meals within a 12-hour window and then fasting for 12 hours. Some people even use a 4-hour window to eat, and then fast for the other 20 hours in the day. Emerging evidence suggests there are a whole range of benefits from intermittent fasting, such as improved insulin sensitivity, improved sleep, reduced inflammation, enhanced immune tolerance and tissue repair and might ultimately increase health and longevity.
So there you have it – if you’re looking to improve your gut health, here are eight steps you can take to make sure you are on the path to having a healthy, functioning gut microbiome.
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– Gary Tobin
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication