The importance of gut health is becoming more and more apparent. Through studies that have been done and new ground breaking discoveries, we now know that our health, both on a physical and psychological level, our behavior and our susceptibility to disease depends on how healthy and balanced our gut microbial community is.
Each of us consists of about 10 trillion human cells, but we have as many as 100 trillion microbial cells on and inside our body, of which most live in the GI tract. They outnumber us by 10 and by this count we’re only 10% human!
Each family of microbes has a specific function that is essential to our survival.
There are several factors that affect the balance of our gut microbial community:
Diet: Eating processed and chemicalized foods feed the bad microbes which will in turn crowd out the beneficial microbes.
Antibiotics: overuse of antibiotics, due to illness or disease kills the gut bacteria including the beneficial microbes. After taking antibiotics, the gut flora will need help to be restored. Probiotic foods or supplements are recommended.
Age: Our microbial community changes with age, so we must also change certain lifestyle habits.
Environment: Contrary to the belief that the cleaner our environment is, the less susceptible to illness we are, getting down and dirty, having pets, etc., can diversify our microbial community therefore keeping it balanced and healthy.
5 Steps we can take to restore balance:
1. Food: adding beneficial foods to your diet
Fermented or cultured foods likes sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, miso, kimchi and other naturally pickled foods contain different types of probiotic bacteria, repopulating your gut with good bacteria.
Prebiotic foods (fiber) like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and beans help to keep the microbial community healthy by feeding the good bacteria, thereby allowing them to crowd out the bad bacteria.
Raw Foods contain fiber that feed the good bacteria.
Less sugar, chemicalized and processed foods, less dairy, less red meat and trans fats are recommended.
2. Sleep: getting more zzz’s
Sleep is a time when the body repairs and restores and is vital to our digestion and overall health. Ideally we should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
3. Lessen Stress:
Stress impairs our digestion by limiting the blood supply to the gut when in flight or fight mode, and in turn this affects the nutrient absorption and assimilation, gut flora numbers and diversity. It may cause inflammation, resulting in bloat and discomfort and in some instances, constipation or diarrhea.
Try to make time for exercise, meditation or anything that relaxes you, in your daily routine.
At meal time, sit at the table, without any devices or distractions, take a couple of deep breaths, give thanks or practice gratitude and enjoy your meal. Remember to chew your food well.
4.Environment: getting down and dirty
When we were kids, my mom always let us play outside, in the sand, the mud and we always had pets that practically ate and slept with us. Some friends and relatives would not approve of this behaviour, saying that we will get sick with all the germs.
My mom believed that these practices would give use a stronger immune system. She didn’t know that 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, it just made sense to her.
So, getting down and dirty is beneficial to our gut microbiome by making it more diverse and therefore contributing to a healthy gut microbial community.
5. Laugh: add more joy to your life
Studies have shown that laughter promotes beneficial bacteria in the gut. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543102
So be merry and repopulate your gut with healthy ‘bugs’
Laughter is, after all, the best medicine! 🙂