Nourish - How to Thrive This Winter: Nourish Your Microbiome
Welcome to part 2 of How to Thrive This winter. In this blog post, we are covering How to Nourish Your Microbiome. Afterall, scientists are constantly learning more and more about how much impact our gut ecosystem has on our immunity. It’s actually pretty fascinating! And with that information, it only makes sense that we should certainly be looking after it and keeping it functioning in tip-top condition.
If you missed part 1, Herbs to Nourish Your Immune System, check it out here.
Nourish Your Microbiome with Prebiotics
I’d like to start off by talking about prebiotics, as while prebiotics and probiotics sound similar, they are in fact very different and have very different roles in the gut.
We’ll discuss probiotics in a bit, but briefly, probiotics are the beneficial microorganisms themselves, whereas prebiotics are a source of food for probiotics and help them grow, multiply and survive in the gut.
Essentially, the food needed to feed your microbiome is referred to as prebiotics.
Generally, prebiotic foods are plant-based foods such as:
Garlic | onions | bananas | apple skin | beans | Jerusalem artichokes | oats | chicory | dandelion root | burdock root and many others. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
If we go as far back as our ancestors, they heavily relied upon seasonally available roots and tubers known to be rich in prebiotic starches to support a healthy digestive system. I know it sounds modern and scientific, but prebiotics are a vital part of our health and always have been.
If you want a more in-depth read about prebiotics, I wrote an article here that you can read more into.
Some easy ways to support your microbiome would be to include more prebiotic-rich foods.
- Try cooking more with onions and garlic. Add apples with the skin into your porridge or muesli. Enjoy a nice bean-rich stew or curry.
Roots like dandelion and burdock are great sources of inulin and other prebiotic starches. They can be a challenge if you’re not used to bitter-tasting foods, but not impossible.
- Dandelion root tea is great, especially 15 minutes before a meal. The bitterness actually stimulates your digestive fluids which helps you digest your food better.
- Try it blended with other herbs if you’re not a fan of the bitterness. Pukka Cleanse tea is a great choice.
- If you can get your hands on fresh dandelion leaves, then try incorporating them into stir-fries or soups.
- Have a browse of our food shelves to find yourself some prebiotic-rich foods and pop the kettle on for some gut-friendly brews. We have loose dandelion root for a tea, dandelion coffee alternative and an abundance of other options in store and online.
- Another coffee alternative worth looking into is Prewett’s Organic Instant Chicory. Chicory is a great source of inulin.
Nourish your Microbiome with Probiotics
With around 70-80% of the immune system found in the gut, it’s important to make gut health a priority to benefit your overall wellbeing. And one way to do that is to ensure you’re consuming plenty of probiotics. But what are they?
Probiotics are defined as microorganisms that are beneficial for the human host. These can be both live bacteria and also yeast. The word “probiotic”, also known as good bacteria, describes the beneficial microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract.
Did you know that our digestive tract is home to trillions of microorganisms? Some of these are beneficial, others are harmful, and some are neutral.
Probiotics support digestive health by:
- rebalancing the guts levels of beneficial bacteria
- producing specific enzymes needed in the digestion of food
- aiding the break-down of foods substances
- helping to improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream.
- producing B complex vitamins & vitamin K
Again, if you want to learn more about probiotics, have a read over this blog post:
Fun fact for you: probiotics are linked to an improved and supported immune system.
One way they do this is by lining the intestines with a protective layer of friendly bacteria that works to keep pathogenic substances in the gut from harming the body. The other is by stimulating the body’s natural defences.
Nourish Your Microbiome with Fermented Foods
Ferments or fermented foods are foods that have been transformed by the growth and metabolic activity of living microorganisms, including bacteria, yeast and even moulds.
They include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, miso soup, tempeh and cultured dairy such as kefir, natural yoghurt and some cheeses.
As these living microorganisms travel through the digestive tract when ingested with fermented foods, they get to work supporting the trillions of microbes already living in the gut. The end result? Thriving communities of microbes. Horrah!
I have covered gut health and fermented foods in more detail in my previous blogs
Click here to read about the importance of fermented foods in more detail and here to read the benefits of fermentation and get a delicious sauerkraut recipe. Check them out for some recipe tips and further information!
Nourish Your Microbiome With Supplements
Probiotics are also available in supplement form and are an excellent way to ensure you’re getting a specific strain/strains and strength of bacteria or yeast.
Some of our favourite brands include Optibac, Udo’s Choice, Living Nutrition and many more!
Which one should I take?
While more research is needed to fully understand the extensive benefits of different probiotic strains, we do know that not all probiotics are created equally. The Lactobacilli, for example, live in our digestive, urinary and genital systems and are found in some fermented foods like yoghurt.
Bifidobacteria tend to live in the intestines as lactic acid bacteria and are also found naturally in fermented foods. Bifidobacterium help to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation, help to support the immune system, and fight harmful bacteria in the intestines.
For certain conditions, you want to ensure you are taking the strain that is most likely to benefit you. Choosing the right one should depend on the specific health condition/s you’re experiencing. That’s because different types of probiotics show to help with different health conditions.
And since everyone is unique in their make-up, everyone will require something different.
If you are a woman experiencing symptoms of thrush, cystitis or bacterial vaginosis, Optibac ‘For women’ would be a fantastic choice. It contains two highly-researched strains of live cultures, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14® recommended to manage the symptoms of these problems as well as discouraging their re-occurrence.
Alternatively, if you’re on a course of antibiotics that will decimate your microbiome, Optibac For Those On Antibiotics provides a formula of Lactobacillus probiotics that tops up the gut with friendly bacteria such as acidophilus. This is essential for those on antibiotics (many of whom experience side effects such as thrush/diarrhoea). If you are on antibiotics, this blog might be of use to you:
For an everyday blend if you’re not experiencing a specific issue but just want a top-up of the goods, try something like Optibac Everyday Blend.
Speak to any of our lovely staff on the shop floor if you’re looking for something specific, or check out Optibac Probiotics webpage for in-depth details about each strain, and which one you should go for.
For Part One of this blog series, check it out here.
If you’re interested in learning more about ways to support your immune system this upcoming winter season, have a read over these blog posts:
- What’s the Scoop On: Chaga Mushroom
- East to West, Tea’s the Best: 9 of our Favourite Health Benefiting Teas
- 5 Essential Pantry Ingredients to Support Your Health This Change of Season
- Support Your Immune System now with These 5 Things
- 5 Top Foods for Staying Healthy This Winter
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*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