Your digestive system is pretty darn important to your body. It’s more than just the location of the magical process where the food you eat gets broken down into the building blocks of your body—it’s also the home of your gut microbiome.
Think of it as a rainforest in your gut. Okay, there aren’t any trees or monkeys, but there is a similarly diverse array of organisms living inside you.
We also need to think of it as our “gut microbiome” instead of just our gut bacteria. While it’s made up mostly of bacteria, a healthy microbiome also has a handful of parasites and yeasts living in balance. We’ve got to give those other microorganisms the props they deserve.
There are trillions of organisms in the dark recesses of your intestines, and up to 1,000 different types. Your microbiome really is like a rainforest.
If you’re wondering how your microbiome is doing, first take a look at your digestion. Your microbiome plays a huge role in how your digestive system functions, and irregularity, gas, bloating, and cramping are all signs that things might not be as balanced as they could be.
That inner rainforest of yours affects more than just your digestion; it also affects and sometimes controls many other body systems. Before getting too squeamish about bacteria controlling your body, let’s take a look at some of the connections.
Your Immune System
70 to 80% of your immune system lives around your gut, so it’s not too surprising that they’re connected. But…it’s more than just a connection. Your microbiome controls your immune system.Your immune system’s job is to kick out any invading organism (virus, bacteria, etc.) and your microbiome needed a way to survive. Early in the development of the immune system, your microbiome took the reins. It was the only way to survive.
To this day your gut-friendly bacteria decide when to turn up and down your immune system. Therefore, we can look to our gut bacteria any time we’re dealing with immune system imbalances like chronic inflammation, auto-immune conditions, and even allergies and eczema.
The Gut/Brain Connection
I find this connection absolutely fascinating. Research has found that our gut bacteria may affect our personality, our mental health, and whether or not we’re more introverted or extroverted (a homebody vs. a party-animal).
My favourite study looked at rats. They took a group of rats and determined if each rat was outgoing or timid. Then they took the gut bacteria from the timid rats and put it into the outgoing rats…and they became timid. They also gave the timid rats bacteria from their outgoing friends, and they also became outgoing.
This is an avenue of research I’m watching closely and we could soon have new options for complex problems like depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Have you put on a few pounds in the last year? You might be able to blame your microbiome.
We’re just in the early stages of learning how our gut critters are connected to our metabolism. But preliminary research has found that low numbers of bacteria in your gut may cause an interesting phenomenon—we extract more energy from our food.
What this means is two people can eat the same meal, but someone with low numbers of bacteria in their gut might get more caloric energy from the food.
But don’t worry, balancing your microbiome is simple and it only takes 7 days for your gut bacteria to change.
Check out the probiotic section at Nature’s Fare Markets for many fantastic options.
Keeping your gut microbiome happy and healthy is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
3 steps to make your microbiome happy and balanced
Eat a variety of plant-based foods.
Prebiotics are all the rage and a plant-based diet is filled to the brim of prebiotic fibre. This is fibre that feeds your good bacteria.
Research has found that the diversity of our microbiome mirrors the diversity of our diet. The more fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and beans you eat, the more diverse your inner rainforest will be.
Add some fermented foods for an added kick.
Your gut bacteria love fermented foods and it’s a great way to fertilize your microbiome. Kefir, unpasteurized saurkraut, yogurt, and kombucha are great fermented foods. It doesn’t need to be complicated—just enjoy one serving of your favourite fermented food each day.
Sprinkle in some probiotics to seed your rainforest.
Our life used to be teeming with bacteria. We drank unclean water, had poor sanitation, and our food came straight from the soil. I like living in our much cleaner modern times, but we need to replace that missing bacteria through a probiotic supplement.
Lisa Kilgour, RHN is Nature’s Fare Markets’ Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is Board Certified in Practical Holistic Nutrition and provides free half hour one-on-one nutrition consultations in our stores.
Learn more: lisakilgour.com https://lisakilgour.com/
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.