In our recent article, Why Your Gut Microbiome Is Vital to Your Health, we defined the microbiome as the mass of healthy microorganisms that live in our bodies and support our heart health, immune system, weight management, and other health functions throughout our system. We discussed the five main areas of health that need support from a healthy microbiome and how those functions break down.
In this article, we will discuss the ways in which you can support your gut health by giving your microbiome what it needs to thrive and support your health in all those areas. The single most influential factor in maintaining a healthy microbiome is the food we eat. Here are six ways to improve your overall health by supporting a healthy microbiome.
Diversify Your Diet
The microbiome in our intestine is not just “bacteria”. It is better described as “hundreds of species of bacteria”, each of which plays a different role in your health and has varying nutritional needs to thrive. So, we diversify our diet to ensure that all our microbiome is healthy and flourishing. Studies have shown that the healthiest microbiomes on the planet are in Africa where residents consume a broader variety of plants in their diets.
Plants, Plants, Plants
A great way to improve your microbiome is to eat more plant-based foods and more different types of them. Because of their fiber content, fruits and vegetables are great nutrition for the gut microbiome. Our bodies do not digest fiber well at all, so those foods are literally eaten and digested primarily by the bacteria in our gut – not by us. And that process enlivens and grows those bacteria so they can do their work. So feed your microbiome plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber like raspberries, lentils, peas, beans, whole grains, and other high fiber foods.
Leavened & Fermented Foods
Because of their use of yeast, enzymes, and specific bacteria, leavened and fermented foods are like little ecosystems of microbiome in themselves! Consuming these foods is an easy way to fortify your gut microbiome with some of the exact ingredients it likes best. Foods like kimchi, yogurt, pickles , sauerkraut, kombucha, and tempeh. These foods bring lactobacilli to your gut, a bacteria that not only benefits your health but also inhibits other bad bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae, which contributes to certain chronic diseases by causing persistent inflammation. Studies have even shown that yogurt can improve lactose intolerance.
Get Your Polyphenols
Polyphenols are naturally occurring organic compounds that have more than one phenolic hydroxyl units. They are derived from plants and are associated with reducing blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress. Because our bodies do not digest polyphenols well, they make their way to the colon where they become nutrition for the gut microbiome. And good news: some of the best sources of polyphenols are dark chocolate and red wine! Other good sources include almonds, onions, green tea, blueberries, and broccoli.
Remember Probiotics Too
Found in certain foods and supplements, probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in certain foods and supplements – they are living strains of bacteria that add to the population of good bacteria in your digestive tract. Prebiotics and probiotics have different roles in the gut.
Reduce Both Sugar And Artificial Sweeteners
Something we’ve discussed often is that dietary sugar has very few advantages with which to justify the many dangers it presents in our bodies. Studies have shown that overconsumption of sugar can lead to imbalances in the gut microbiome, a condition known medically as dysbiosis. Research has also demonstrated that artificial sweeteners actually increase blood sugar levels, and negatively affect the microbiome in the process. Remember your microbiome has evolved over 2 million years and has never been exposed to sugar alcohols like erythritol and our high sugar western diets.
In addition to these foods, some common sense practices your mom used to prod you about still apply. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly to ensure optimal absorption of nutrients. And stay hydrated to promote healthy digestion of your food.
If you have questions about your gut microbiome and how to protect it, connecting with a doctor in a discrete setting has never been easier.
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