What is your microbiome and why is it important?

Our microbiome refers to the community of bacterial cells that live in our digestive system. It is important to keep this community of bacteria diverse and balanced to optimise our health and wellbeing.

Did you know? We are made of 90% bacteria & 10% human cells

Our digestive system -also lovingly known as our Gut- is home to 100 trillion bacterial cells. They live together symbiotically, communicating with the rest of the body to modulate our overall health. These bacteria extract nutrients from our food and decipher what is friend or foe. If they don’t function correctly, our health, sense of wellbeing, skin and body weight can become compromised.

   

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, made this bold statement in 460 BC: The importance of Gut health has long been underestimated, but we now know that we can optimise our overall health and wellbeing by nourishing and protecting our microbiome (gut bacteria) through diet.

   

Our gut bacteria help produce vitamins, protect our immunity and extract calories from food. They aid in energy production, hormone balance and have an enormous role to play in our mental health.

We can therefore easily tip the balance of our health, body weight and skin by either supporting our gut health or neglecting it through our food choices.

If we don’t replenish (probiotic) and feed (prebiotic) our microbiome, we may become DYSBIOTIC over time; meaning you may have more unfavourable bacteria than good ones which could lead to symptoms such as bloating, IBS, food intolerance, low mood, weight gain and cravings to name but a few.

Gut: our 2nd brain

Our Gut contains 100 million neurons embedded in the intestinal lining. This is important to know because we produce more serotonin and dopamine (the happy hormones) in our gut than we do in our brains, up to 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, hence the modern term for good mood food! It is the only body system that works independently of the brain and is known as the enteric nervous system. If our microbiome is out of whack it tells our brain which may lead to acute low mood, fear, anxiety, etc.

Foods to get that natural HIGH, boosting serotonin production:

  • Spirulina
  • Raw dairy / Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Sesame seeds, cashews and walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Wholegrain oats, corn and Quinoa
  • Chickpeas, Potatoes
  • Grass-fed Beef and Lamb

Can your gut help you lose weight?

The answer is YES and lies with your bacterial diversity. The more species of bacteria living and proliferating in your gut, the better. Recent studies show that having a greater population of bad bacteria in your gut can extract more calories from food and cause weight gain and cravings. We can influence this balance greatly through diet and lifestyle adjustments.

Having a greater pool of friendly bacteria boosts nutrient absorption, signals our hunger hormones to relax and aids in energy extraction from food whilst reducing bloating and indigestion.

We really are what we eat. Eating a diet rich in dietary fibre (this will be discussed in the next blog post) and anti-inflammatory fats such as those found in avocados, grass-fed butter, fish rich in omega 3s, and extra-virgin olive oil nourish the microbiome and the environment they exist in.

 

Did you know!

  • Roughly 75% of our immunity (disease-fighting cells) is found in our gut
  • The right balance of good gut flora helps to detect and protect the body from pathogens (foreign bodies) and toxins
  • Autoimmune conditions are at near epidemic level in developed countries due to changes in dietary habits and increased consumption of processed foods, so let's work together to limit and even avoid some of these mass produced non-food foods.
  • Overuse of antibiotics, stress, low fibre diets, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, smoking and lack of sleep can all compromise the health of our microbiome and gut lining.
 

Foods that can make our Gut sick

Try to avoid or limit the following ‘foods’ to keep your gut happy

  • Refined sugar/artificial sweeteners – Sugar feeds yeast, which allows it to overpopulate and outnumber the good bacteria in your digestive tract
  • Trans Fat (Inflammatory)– cakes, commercial fried/baked goods, crisps, certain packets and jars of sauces. Look out for hydrogenated vegetable oils and say NO
  • GlutenIF YOU SUFFER FROM Coeliac disease or digestive health issues such as IBS, Inflammatory bowel, Crohns or Auto immune conditions
  • Dairy - Again if you notice you have unsavoury digestive or skin issues perhaps dairy is not your Gut bacteria’s friend
  • Red meat – over exposure to antibiotics and how long it takes us to digest it all makes red meat something we should try to limit
  • Limit fruit and veg exposed to pesticides and ensure you wash it unless genuinely organic produce.

Probiotics for the win

Probiotics are the good guys in this story. They are live, friendly bacteria which line our gut and look after nutrient absorption, digestive health and immune support. They can be both supplemented and ingested by eating ‘live’ fermented foods.

  • Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, yoghurt, miso, tempeh, apple cider vinegar and Raw dairy

Historically we had lots of probiotics in our diet when we ate fresh foods from bacteria rich soils and fermented food to prevent spoilage. Now we must work at maintaining our levels due to the our current dietary habits and environmental exposures.

Health benefits of Probiotics 

  • Increase bacteria diversity
  • Improve nutrient absorption from food
  • Boost Energy production
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Healthier skin
  • Reduced colds and flus
  • Better digestive health
  • Reduced bloating and related digestive discomfort

Good news is you can’t overdose, so get them into you!

It gets lonely without Prebiotics

How many plants have you eaten this week? If very few, you may be compromising the health of your gut and therefore your overall health too. Foods such as onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, whole grains and legumes play a big role in gut health as they are the preferred food source of our friendly gut bugs. They are a source of dietary fibres that feed the good bacteria and help re-inoculate your microbiome, offsetting any ill effects.

If you’ve recently had to take a course of antibiotics, you will need to help your gut make new friends again. Antibiotics can wipe out all bacteria, including the good ones, such as lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The effect of this can last up to 4 years with repercussions on our health. The good news is you can make simple dietary adjustments to reverse and prevent these unfavourable side effects (we will discuss this further in the next post).

      If you want to know more about your Gut health and healthy dietary habits, our 8-week fitness and nutrition programme could be what you need! Our certified nutritional coach Andrea Vard and our team of fitness experts will devise a personalised plan, incorporating comprehensive eating guidelines, fitness classes and personal training schedules.      

 

      Click here to get a sample recipe for a total Gut Makeover!      

 

About the author

Andi has an insatiable passion for health and fitness and has continuously updated her skill set to ensure she can offer clients the best possible training and advice. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to wellness and Andi is a firm believer in personalised programming to ensure client goals are met with sustainable results.

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