Our guts control and manage every aspect of our health. How we digest our food and even the food sensitivities we have are linked with our mood, behavior, energy, weight, food cravings, hormone balance, immunity, and overall wellness.

There are trillions of bacteria and fungi that inhabit every area of your gastrointestinal tract, and have a major influence on your metabolism, body weight, susceptibility to illness, immune system, appetite and even mood.  So, the more diverse and the amount of healthy gut bacteria we have may lower your risk of disease and/or allergies. 

Let’s talk briefly about how to improve your microbiome health and build up the healthy bacteria we need. 

Here is a list of ways to restore your good bacteria and gut flora.

1. Increase Fiber 

Eat a health amount of fiber per day, it’s more than you think and based on gender.  A 2017 study found that the importance of fiber is directly tied to our gut microbes. Bacteria feeds on and thrives on a high fiber diet, this is how they multiply and become diversified. The more microorganisms we have present in our intestines helps with the thickening of our mucosal lining creating a barrier and reducing the risk of leaky gut. 

Vegetables are rich in fiber including carrots, beets, broccoli, collard greens, swiss chard. Artichokes are actually one of the highest-fiber veggies.

2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables 

The variety of fruits and vegetables we eat is just as important as the amount. Each fruit or vegetable contains different chemical make-up, nutrient and phytonutrients which will help support the gut in various ways.  So if you are only eating one or two options you are limiting what is being offered to your gut. 

3. Increase polyphenols

Polyphenols can help increase the growth of helpful bacteria which produce compounds shown to promote our health and wellbeing.  Phytochemicals have the potential to create an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect.

Nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, coffee and tea (especially green tea) are all examples. 

4. Avoid snacking too often

By increasing the length of time in between meals and snacks we are giving microbes a rest period, so they don’t have to work on digesting the foods you eat as often. This also might also reduce the risk of weight gain. 

5. Consume fermented foods

A class of microbes associated with fermented food products are lactic acid bacteria (LAB). There is now strong evidence for the impact of fermented foods and beverages on balancing our microbiome, general health, and even brain functionality. Fermented foods have been found to cause significant positive improvements in balancing intestinal permeability and barrier function.

Some good choices are kefir, raw milk cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchi and soybean-based products such as soy sauce, tempeh and natto.

6. Alcohol

Yup I said it, drink A SMALL amount of alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to increase some healthy bacteria in the gut, such as beer since it is fermented. Don’t get too excited, alcohol can be harmful to your microbes and health when consumed in large amounts. So, moderation is key. 

7. Avoid artificial sweeteners & sugar

Artificial sweeteners are not recommended because they have been known to disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut. Sweeteners in drinks, such as fruit juice and sports supplements and especially sodas may be toxic to your microbiome.  Processed foods can disrupt your gut balance as well. 

Be careful and read your labels because artificial sweeteners and sugars are sneaky and find their way into so many foods. Foods such as bread, yogurt, fruit juice, and lots of other foods that appear healthy can sometimes contain artificial sweeteners and sugars.

8. Be mindful of antibiotic use 

Antibiotics can be lifesaving and always follow you doctor’s orders. However, antibiotics have been overused throughout the years and we are seeing more antibiotic resistance now than ever. This may be due to biofilm overgrowth (which we can talk about another time). Antibiotics are used to kill bad bacteria which could be the cause of your acute illness, but it also destroys good bacteria as well, it doesn’t discriminate. It can take a long time to repopulate your microbiome after one round of antibiotics. The use of other medications such as antacids, Tylenol and NSAIDS also may interfere with your gut health as well.

9. Limit antibacterial soap

Hand washing is your first line of defense when it comes to not getting sick, so keep up the good work! Nevertheless, antibacterial sprays or hand soap may not be good for your gut.

Many liquid soaps labeled antibacterial contain triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental, academic and regulatory groups. Some animal studies have shown that triclosan alters the way some hormones work in the body and raises potential concerns for the effects of use in humans, more studies need to be conducted to see long term effects. 

The daily use antibacterial soaps may upset the delicate balance of bacteria, viruses, and fungus that live on our skin every day.

Finding more natural and effective hand soaps may not only be just as effective but healthier for you as well. 

10. Incorporate probiotics 

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to be beneficial to health. They are used to help restore or repopulate the good bacteria into your digestive tract. As discussed above fermented foods are great examples of naturally occurring probiotics. 

A high-quality probiotic with many live strains of bacteria maybe beneficial to your health. CFU’s (colonizing forming unit) are important but also looking at how is it distributed in the gut is essential as well. Does it survive the transit from the stomach to the intestines? It’s great to have a 50 billion CFU but if more than half die off you are not getting the best bang for your buck. 

11. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are food components that microbes break down and use as energy, and they also provide beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids for our bodies to use. 

Naturally occurring prebiotics are artichokes, leeks, onions and garlic, which has a compound called inulin.  Many don’t eat a diet high in prebiotics or just may not get enough. So looking into a high-quality prebiotic may perhaps help your gut diversity as well. 

12. Heal the gut

There are other ways to help heal the gut but for most this is very individualized.  

L-glutamine might be something to consider. L-glutamine is an essential amino acid and helps maintain the health and growth of enterocytes (intestinal absorptive cells) in your gut since it is the preferred fuel source of these cells. L-glutamine can also boost immune activity, help prevent infection and inflammation, as well as healing the intestinal tissue.

When determining what is best for you, working with a professional to determine a plan and what approach is best and essential. If you have any questions about your gut health or what supplements I recommend and which amounts, reach out.  

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