Let’s talk about health, but more specifically let’s dial into the radical importance of stomach health and what’s called the microbiome in your gut.
When we talk about ‘gut health’, we’re talking about the diverse collection and functions of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract that aid in keeping the whole body in top form…or not.
The stomach is a house filled to the brim with millions of bacteria, some of them are helpful, some are harmful, and they all contribute to aspects of well-being. Every human has a unique microbiome based on their lifestyle and diet which can reveal reams of information about their health.
Specific elements like prebiotics, and living organisms like probiotics are all part of the gut-ecosystem which help keep beneficial bacteria healthy, thriving, and in balance which in turn has the effect of boosting your immune system, nervous system, cognitive functioning, sense of emotional well-being and more while maintaining top digestive performance.
The term biotic is derived from the Greek word biōtikós, which translates to “pertaining to life’, and speaks to a biological ecosystem of organisms along with their physical environment. A healthy digestive system allows nutrients and energy broken down from the food you eat to be transferred throughout the body via bloodstream.
Some bacteria in your microbiome help keep inflammation in check, while others will promote it. By maintaining a balanced level of healthy bacteria you keep those that produce inflammation from over multiplying and spreading harmful metabolites through your stomach lining, which can inflame and place stress on other parts of the body.
Since 2016, there has been a field of studies carried out in the nutrition and health fields solely focused on the importance of a healthy gut. Imbalanced levels of healthy bacteria have been linked to the following the diseases:
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Allergies, Asthma, other sensitivities
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cognitive decline and brain disorders (Alzheimer’s, dementia)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Mood disorders, (like depression)
“So,” you may be asking yourself, “what can I do to create and keep a healthy microbiome, and how to tell if it’s unbalanced?”
One of the best things you can do to ensure a diverse array of beneficial bacteria in your gut is to eat a diet rich with varieties of fruits, vegetables, fiber abundant and plant-based foods. To aid in the specific cultivation of higher or balanced levels of probiotics, those living organisms which promote healthy bacteria, make sure to include fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, sourdough bread, buttermilk, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, pickles and kefir. The wider variety of these types of food you consume, the more diverse and abundant microbiome you’ll have contributing to a greater level of overall, whole-bodied health.
What foods should you limit or avoid ensuring lower levels of inflammation in your system? Cut back on refined sugar, processed foods, alcohol, bread and yeast, red meat, dairy, and any type of genetically modified organism (GMO’s, the most common being corn, soy, and wheat). Unfortunately, those traits spliced into GMO’s to resist disease have been shown through studies to harmfully alter the gut microbiome, as has drinking unfiltered tap water.
These lists may look a little daunting at first, but once you’ve created a habit around learning and thinking about the foods you eat directly influencing every aspect of your health through your gut, it becomes easier. If you think your microbiome may be a bit unbalanced, and your diet consists of many of those foods on the ‘avoid’ list, there are a few steps you can take to vastly improve it.
You may consider starting an elimination diet, which is known as the gold standard for discovering your personal food intolerances and allergies. In a nutshell, it is what it sounds like: systematically removing foods from your diet which you suspect may be causing adverse symptoms, later reintroducing them while monitoring your body’s reactions. If you’re curious for more, we’ve covered this in an article here.
Studies have also shown that taking prebiotic and probiotic supplements can all aid in curating a balanced, better-functioning ecosystem of bacteria in the microbiome. Prebiotics are substances (dietary fibers you get from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) that feed probiotics (living microorganism) which keep beneficial bacteria levels thriving.
And as we’re talking about biōtikós, we should also mention the effects of antibiotics on gut health. Antibiotics were designed to kill off bacterial infections. They do this as well as indiscriminately remove much of the friendly bacteria your gut wants to nourish. This shift can be slight, depending on factors such as age, the type of antibiotic, the length, and the number of courses, but it can also be drastic and potentially lead to other health complications associated with an imbalanced microbiome. Studies have shown that in most cases a person’s microbiome will restore itself to equalized levels after roughly two months; however, repeated tests have also shown that some strains of healthy bacteria are still not present after as much as six months. Taking antibiotics may be required at some point in your life, and in order to aid the renewal of your gut’s microbiome, eating plenty of the foods previously mentioned, a prebiotic, and postbiotic supplement would be advised.
Regular exercise has also been shown to drastically improve gut health. The recorded diversity and abundance of healthy bacteria in the micro-biomes of athletes and those who exercise regularly is vastly increased from those who don’t.
Maintaining a healthy gut is essential to wellbeing. A recent study has said that, ‘”Our previous work showed that particular gut bacteria help the gut produce serotonin…and an estimated 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut.”
Aside from warding off diseases, a balanced microbiome directly participates in generating an overall sense of health. This means staying hydrated with clean drinking water, regular exercise, eating a diet rich primarily in plant-based foods, fermented foods, quitting refined sugar, and minimizing the amount of red meat you eat.
Have you learnt something new about gut health today? What aspects will you be incorporating into your lifestyle to improve your gut health?