The ‘gut microbiome’ is a hot topic of conversation these days. But do you really know what it is and important steps you can take to care for it? The health of your gut goes much deeper than merely popping a probiotic. Let’s give you a little insight to take back to your circles of influence who are buzzing on the topic!
Did you know right now you are harboring within you an entire ecosystem?! There are literally trillions of bacteria in the digestive tract. They make up what is called the microflora, because under a microscope they look like little (micro) flowers (flora). We refer to it collectively as our microbiome which play an unbelievable role in synthesizing vitamins, producing natural antibiotics and degrading and eliminating toxins. You are truly made up of MORE bacteria than human cells!
Recent science (that is ever evolving) has taught us that the microbiome also dictates aspects of who we are – our personalities, our susceptibility to certain diseases, our mood, and even the size of our waistband. Most people are oblivious to it, paying no attention to it at all….until it begins to let us know it is hurting!
It is not just the stomach, intestines, or colon that make up the microbiome. It is the entire tube (GI tract) that runs through us which is 30 feet long has an opening on each end…the mouth to the anus. If we were to stretch this out it would equal the side of a telephone pole! The GI tract (or internal tube) maintains at 98.6 degrees and is a very moist environment, making it the perfect breeding ground for microbes – both good and bad bugs.
Outside, external influences often upset the balance…this unbalance is called dysbiosis. How we choose to control the external influences determines the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria. It is up to us – we must care for them and understand what can influence them. It is crucial to good health and requires more than a probiotic…which can help or harm your unique microflora depending on the situation.
Factors That Affect the Microbiome:
Food we eat, medications, stress, anxiety, genetics, time spent outdoors, exposure to animals, toxin and chemical exposure, antibiotic use throughout our lives, how we were born — C-section or vaginally — whether we were breast-fed, how much we sleep, and more…impact the microbiome.
For most of us, our guts are a mess…whether we know it or not. An unbalanced gut doesn’t always show up in symptoms of the gut…it can influence development of other illnesses (check out the connection to thyroid), show up in symptoms of the skin, sinuses, weight issues, fatigue, and much more. Our current culture has created a microbiome that looks very different from what nature intended for each of us. So how do we intentionally nourish our gut?
Increase These Foods to Support your Microbiome :
- Eat organic, non-GMO....when possible support and buy from your local organic farmers. These foods are low in pesticides and have not been genetically modified which can alter your flora and damage your intestinal lining, causing leaky gut.
- Mindfully select a rainbow of colorful vegetables and some fruit every day. They will provide fermentable fibers that feed our healthy flora. Aim for at least 1 or more cups with each meal and 3 or more colors per meal!
- Include coconut products like coconut oil, milk, yogurt and kefir. Coconut is filled with medium chain triglycerides which feed the cells lining our intestines and has yeast-killing properties. New to coconut oil? Coat your pan before cooking your eggs or check out my Cauliflower Sweet Potato Mash recipe!
- Incorporate Ghee, which is clarified butter…and dairy free. Ghee is filled with butyrate, a critically-important fatty acid for the care and feeding of cells in our colon.
- Include healthy anti-inflammatory oils and fats. Such as fish, flax, avocado, grapeseed, and olive oil. Look for cold-first pressed organic non GMO oils. For more on choosing quality oils see my blog post. Also include raw nut butters like almond and cashew as well as raw nuts…see my blog on nuts.
- Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, or free-range organic animals when possible. This will limit the hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that we are expose our microbes to when eating animals raised in typical feed lots. Also, the meat from grass fed animals have higher quality, anti-inflammatory fats than corn fed animals.
In addition to food, supplements may be needed to support the gut such as digestive enzymes, natural motility agents, pre and probiotics, zinc carnosine, glutamine, magnesium, HCL and betaine…especially those with low stomach acid. Each person is different and has unique and specific needs. You should never start supplements without guidance from a qualified practitioner who can help you use food to work synergistically and ensure there is no contraindication with your medicine or health issues when taking supplements or herbals.
Testing may also be important to consider…whether it be traditional labs, stool cultures, food and environmental sensitivity testing, to help determine root cause to an imbalanced microbiome and provide a roadmap for recovery!
It is Equally Important to Remove These Foods:
- Processed food high in sugar, white flour, baked goods, food dyes and preservatives. These foods and chemicals promote the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in our gut. This includes fruit juices, dried fruit, and all added sugar or artificial sweeteners except stevia.
- Gluten, dairy, soy, corn (and for some eggs and peanuts). These foods are the most common triggers for reflux, constipation and abdominal discomfort, as well as other non-gut related symptoms.
- Foods high in histamines. Shellfish, processed or smoked meats and sausages, wine. Many people are affected by histamine intolerance caused by the body’s inability to break down histamine in the gut causing crazy allergy reactions. Reactions to histamines can look like allergic reactions, including nasal congestion as well as headaches, dizziness and digestive discomfort.
Since 70-80% of your immune system is in the gut, this makes taking care of the microbiome essential to good health.
Are you struggling with IBS, gastroparesis, GERD, SIBO, chronic constipation, skin issues, sinus troubles, autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Ulcerative Colitis? Then it is time to take action to optimize your microbiome and immune function!
“Everyone has a doctor in him or her: we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well” -Hippocrates
I would love to partner with you on your journey to heal your gut and care for your microbiome!