How to increase your gut health and microbiome diversity for a healthy boost.
Gut microbiome - now the most researched bacteria in the world, the microscopic but very much alive organisms in our gut influence everything from our immune system response, skin health, mental health, allergies, and overall wellness.
The complex and dynamic relationship that gut microbes have with our physical and mental health is now widely known, and we know that having happy gut flora is paramount to good health. Unfortunately, our lifestyles are prone to disrupting the balance of bacteria in our gut, and things like stress, sugar, poor diet, alcohol, some medications, and lack of sleep can all be damaging to our microbiome.
The gut microbiome is the total of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, viruses etc that are present in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). There are trillions of living microbes inside your gut, responsible for a broad range of physiological functions.
One of the microbiome’s most notable aspects is its symbiotic relationship with the immune system. The presence of certain microorganisms within the GIT help to develop and maintain the immune response. In a recent study, the two-way relationship between the immune system and gut microbiome was proven, as the immune system can shape the composition of microbiome.
As well as this, the gut microbiome plays a large role in influencing mental health. The gut-brain axis (GBA) is also a two-way communication - this time between the gut microbiome and the enteric nervous system, so there is a direct link between the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain and intestinal function and composition.
The function of the gut microbiome is profound and extensive. Unfortunately, many aspects of life such as high stress, sleep deprivation, poor diet, and medications can all damage our gut microbiome. This in turn affects other areas of our body, such as our brain and heart function, immune system function, our ability to absorb nutrients, as well as hormones, skin health, weight management, and other diseases.
There are many ways to identify an unhealthy gut, and imbalances in the gut bacteria, called dysbiosis, can play a role in the development of many of the following conditions. Some of the signs of an unhealthy gut are as follows.
There is now strong evidence that fermented foods have a direct positive effect on gut microbiota balance and brain functionality. These foods include yoghurt, pickles, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, some breads, and more. Ingesting these microorganisms required to ferment foods has been found to cause significant improvement in balancing intestinal permeability and barriers.
Fibre is food that is not digested in the small intestine. It moves into the large intestine or colon where is it fermented by good bacteria that live there. Eating foods that contain fibre has many benefits for the digestive system and helps to keep it healthy.
Insoluble fibre is found in foods such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, lentils, beans etc. It helps to clear out our bowels and keep them regular. Soluble fibre is found in fruits and vegetables, oats, beans and lentils, and it dissolves in water to form a gel in your intestines, which slows digestion and helps to stabilise blood glucose levels, among other benefits.
Probiotics are tiny living strains of bacteria that add to the population of good bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, yoghurt, and pickled vegetables.
Prebiotics are a type of fibre that isn’t digested and acts as food for the good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are found in fruits, onion, garlic, legumes, beans, oats, chicory root, etc.
Our microbiome also follow a pattern, similar to our circadian rhythm, and they need time to rest and restore. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it may disturb your digestion and microbiome. Getting enough sleep is necessary for our gut health.
According to research, people who exercise regularly have a more diverse microbiome than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. One of the main ideas in this research is that working out boosts the levels of microbes that produce butyrate, which is a short chain fatty acid that has many benefits of human health, including fuelling your gut cells, neural growth and protection, producing satiety hormones, and being anti-inflammatory.
Eating too much refined sugar can upset our gut health and metabolism. That’s because sugar can feed the bad bacteria and upset the balance of microbes within your GIT. Artificial sweeteners can disrupt your health in the same way, and can increase blood sugar levels.
Alcohol effects the barrier in the gut, and is a diuretic. If you are planning on drinking, a glass of red wine is the way to go - it contains polyphenols and antioxidants that can help to protect against inflammation.
There are two ingredients in these deliciously snacky Cacao Macadamia Brownie Collagen Bars that make them excellent for gut health - collagen, which contains the amino acids needed to repair and restore the gut, and chicory root fibre, which is high in the prebiotic fibre inulin, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
Bare Greens is a freeze-dried powder that’s full of potent vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and phytonutrients. It helps to detoxify and alkalise our internal organs, including our GIT, and helps to assist digestion.
Bare Glow is a simple, high quality hydrolysed collagen powder with added acerola cherry (providing vitamin C) which helps with collagen absorption. Collagen is an easily digestible and bioavailable protein with essential reparative nutrients. Collagen supplements can help to restore connective tissue in the intestinal lining.