Top Tips for a Happy Microbiome
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Did you know that head to toe and inside-out, we are actually made up of more bacterial DNA than human DNA? Our microbiome is hugely involved in so many areas of healthy function and optimal wellbeing.
The human microbiome has become a top topic with many people being aware of the effects of antibiotics and probiotics, trying to keep our digestive system in tip top shape, protecting the digestive tract and assisting in digestion and uptake of nutrients.
It seems like every week we are reading new research articles and papers that are discovering new strains and bacteria in our digestive system that are affecting something further in our body. We know bacteria assist us with specific nutrient absorption, our mood, hormone production, metabolism, enhancing our immune system , and providing cells with energy. However, we also know about bacteria that is common and can heavily impact certain lifestyle and genetic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, mental health conditions, and some forms of cancer. In short, it is very important that we keep the good bacteria happy and discourage the growth of the not-so-supportive bacteria.
So how can you keep this balance of bacteria? Here’s five tips for a happy microbiome.
1. A top thing to focus on is making sure your diet is including plenty of both pro- and pre-biotics, each and every day. What’s the difference?
Probiotics are the foods that contain the good bacteria – think fermented foods such as good quality, pot set yoghurts, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and even apple cider vinegar that contains the mother all contain great amounts of healthy good bacteria.
Prebiotics are the foods that are the fibre and energy for the bacteria to grow and flourish – think apples, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Parts of these vegetables are undigestible by the human gut, so they move all the way into our bowels to be fed on by our bacteria. The outcome of this feeding frenzy results in a plethora of beneficial substances that are absorbed through the gut wall exert their effects throughout the entire body.
2. Imagine our gut microbiome contains a garden with good bacteria that helps our body, and bad bacteria that cause inflammation. Sugar from the diet selectively feeds the bad bacteria.
A 2018 study confirmed that eating excessive amounts of sugar suppresses the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. But before you start slashing all sugar from your diet for the sake of better gut health, it is important to remember that certain forms of sugar, lie the natural kind we get from fruit, are still important to be consuming in moderation. When we eat things like fruit, we are gaining necessary nutrients and fibre that actually improves gut health and gives an overall positive effect. Sugar becomes the problem when it is consumed in the absence of its natural form; we are aware that the average Australian can consume up to 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
3. The gut and brain are deeply entwined; a troubled brain can inform the gut and vice versa, a troubled gut can inform the brain.
As an example, some individuals can experience a speed up of their bowel in a stressful situation. Stress can be a big contributing factor to changes in our microbiome. We can see long term, chronic stress negatively affecting growth, movement and signalling between bacteria, as well as changes in bacterial compositions. A recent study found that high levels of stress can affect gut bacteria similar to that of a high fat diet.
4. Drinking too much alcohol.
In terms of gut health, excessive or chronic alcohol consumption can cause serious gut problems. Studies in those who consume over the recommended daily suggestion of alcohol showed an imbalance between good and not-so-supportive bacteria. Alcohol not only causes this imbalance, but it also may cause inflammation of the gut and tight cells lining the intestine, affecting what nutrients are absorbed and how waste is disposed.
Digestive symptoms? Diarrhoea, bloating, discomfort after eating, lack of appetite, IBS, IBD, Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis are all common digestive symptoms that we see in clinic with our patients. Naturopaths have the knowledge and clinical tools to introduce certain strains of bacteria that can reduce these symptoms.
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