Everyone whose remotely interested in Wellness is now talking about the Microbiome – it’s a massive buzzword right now, but it’s can be a complex topic to get your head around. So, my intention in this week’s blog, and across all of my platforms, is to not only to help you understand your Microbiome, but to also help you to dramatically improve your gut health.
So, what is your Microbiome?
Simply put, it’s all the bacteria that are living on and in your body. If this sounds alarming or gross, stay with me! Each of you has a unique and varied collection of living bacteria, which is the result of your history, your diet/lifestyle, and the environment you live in. This colony of bacteria that is unique to you, affects your moods, your immune system, your digestion, and virtually every biological function in your body. This is why recent research is now showing that understanding each person’s personal microbiome will be part and parcel of the future of medicine.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating areas of recent research is the correlation between moods (depression/anxiety) and gut health. The microorganisms in your gut, when inflamed, trigger the release of Cytokines, which regulate how your body responds to inflammation. Think of these cytokines as little messengers that travel up a giant nerve (the vagus nerve) from your gut to your brain. In the brain, they can significantly affect the metabolism of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. So, can you now see how an inflammatory gut (or less-than-healthy gut biome), can directly affect your moods?
How Do I know If My Microbiome is Less Than Healthy?
It’s pretty simple. If you check 2 or more of the following statements, your microbiome probably needs some love:
- You experience gas and bloating during the day, and especially after eating.
- You suffer from recurrent yeast infections.
- You have inflammation in your body, which may show up as pain in joints.
- Your skin is inflamed (Rosacea, eczema, dermatitis).
- You suffer from recurrent infections such as sinusitis and/or colds and respiratory infections.
- You suffer from Asthma.
- You suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
- You have taken 3 or more courses of oral antibiotics in the past 5 years.
- You have food allergies
What Can I do To Heal My Gut?
The first thing to address is what might be causing you to have inflammation in your gut in the first place. Inflammation can be caused by a number of factors including stress, lack of exercise, SAD diet (Standard American Diet), and food allergies. If you have a hunch that you might have gut inflammation (see how many of the above 9 factors you checked), I recommend going on a cleansing diet for 30 days, where you eliminate foods that might be contributing to your symptoms, and foods which are common allergens. If you try the 30-day Gorgeous For Good diet, you will feel a massive difference at the end of 30 days.
Now, let’s discuss the difference between “good” and “bad” bacteria. Most of us think of bacteria as being bad, in the sense that it can make us sick. “Bad” bacteria is known as a pathogen. Pathogens like salmonella, streptococcus and E. Coli can obviously make us very sick. But, our body hosts a range of bacteria, both good (probiotics) and bad (pathogens). And here is the key: we need to increase the population of the good guys, so they can crowd the bad guys out.
Good bacteria includes lactobacilli, which resides in the small intestine, and bifidobacteria, which resides in the colon. These probiotics produce lactic acid, which makes our gut inhospitable to the bad guys. These probiotics also perform a number of important functions such as metabolizing our food, absorbing minerals, and even producing vitamins. Keep in mind that they are not native to our gut, we get them from our diet. This is why there is way more to this issue than just throwing a bunch of probiotics down the hatch! Probiotic supplements are actually a small (but – yes, important) part of the whole healing regimen that needs to take place. The most important thing to think about first is:
FEED THE LITTLE GUYS WITH WHAT THEY WANT!!!!!
The good bacteria need to be fed with certain foods in order to multiple and fully populate your gut. They are hungry. The best food for these guys is called a “PREbiotic”. A prebiotic is a specific kind of carbohydrate fiber, which cannot be digested in the small intestine, and so makes its way to the colon where it ferments and feeds the good bacteria.
Best Prebiotic foods to add to your diet:
- Raw Jicama
- Raw garlic
- Raw or cooked onions
- Raw dandelion greens
- Raw Asparagus
- Under ripe banana
- Raw Chicory root
- Acacia gum (get the powder and mix with water).
I recommend a coffee substitute, which is delicious, called Dandy. It contains prebiotics such as chicory and dandelion root.
In order to get some of these foods into your daily diet, try my delicious Ulimate Prebiotic Salad, which is a great way to get in as many probitoics as your can into one meal.
Certain fermented foods are “probiotic” which is why they have become so popular. Its interesting to me that almost every traditional culture has some kind of a fermented food as part of their diet. Fermented foods to include in your diet include:
- Kefir (I like coconut water kefir)
- Yogurt (yogurt must be unsweetened – also check for other additives).
- Pickled vegetable and pickles
But don’t go crazy with these foods. We tend to think more is better, and this just isn’t the case. In some instances, you can feel more bloated or gassy with these foods if you overdo it. Start with very small amounts, and if it makes you feel better, add a little more. Keep in mind that fermented foods are supposed to be used as condiments – 1 tbsp of spoon of fermented red cabbage, or pickled veggies might be the perfect amount 3 or 4 times a week. Also beware of chugging too much Kombucha – this drink is a fad right now. Kombucha is delicious but it only contains a very small amount of probiotic.
What About Probiotics?
Probiotics are a useful tool in your mission to populate your gut with good bacteria. But do remember that they are transient, which means they visit and then leave. This is why it’s important to establish both a PRE and a PRO biotic regimen.