You can’t go far in the current health climate without hearing about gut health and the connection this has on a whole variety of health conditions. In literature, we continuously see the link being made between the state of our gut and the manifestation of certain conditions or symptoms. And a lot of this comes down to our gut microbiome.
Why the gut microbiome is key to our health
Your gut harbours trillions of microbes which include bacteria, viruses and fungi, all living as a community in your intestinal tract. The makeup of your gut microbiome is influenced by many things, in particular what you eat and what you do in your daily life. This includes your diet, the amount of exercise you do, the medications you take, right down to the amount of sleep you get. For this reason, we each have a unique gut microbiome which is considered to be our own bacterial fingerprint.
We are still uncovering the full picture of how the gut microbiome influences our overall health, but, we are coming to understand that this gut-ecosystem has far-reaching consequences. For instance, the gut microbiome plays a huge role in maintaining our immune function, with over 60-70% of our immune cells living in our small intestines.
This colony of bacteria protects us from pathogens (disease-causing bacteria), helps us to digest our food, produces by-products that further protect our gut barrier and more. We have a symbiotic relationship with these gut microbes, they can alter our behaviour, including our mood and immunity, and we can alter theirs, through diet and lifestyle.
It's a fine balance
Different species of bacteria require different environmental circumstances to thrive. For instance, certain beneficial bacteria thrive on berries, or wholegrains! Whereas less desirable bacteria thrive in a more acidic environment. These less-desirable bacteria tend to be more problematic and if we allow them to thrive, they can drive unwanted symptoms such as constipation or bloating. Any imbalance in our gut bacteria is known as gut dysbiosis.
The linchpin to a healthy microbiome is a greater diversity within the species of bacteria.
Research shows that a lower microbial diversity has been associated with certain conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and other inflammatory conditions, so optimising the diversity of our gut microbiome is imperative to our overall health and resilience.
What can we do?
Putting all of this together there is a lot that we can do and our diet and lifestyle choices play a pivotal role. If you’re unsure on where to even start supporting your gut health, here are a few quick and easy ways to guide you:
- Eating fermented foods - such as Kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. These contain live bacteria and can be an easy way to increase the overall abundance of beneficial bacteria. When choosing fermented foods, ensure it’s authentic and of high quality, such as Pure Booch, as not all fermented foods are made equal. Read our blog on adding fermented foods to your diet.
- Live bacteria - commonly referred to as probiotics, typically taken as an oral supplement.
- Increasing fibre - including a variety of fibre-rich foods into your diet, such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes, can all help to improve microbial diversity.
- Eating the rainbow. Eating a colourful array of foods will no doubt pack in heaps of fibre, but will also provide additional nutrients in the form of antioxidants. Typically, the more colourful the food the richer the supply of antioxidants.
- Support your stress levels. Stress can deplete our microbiome if left unmanaged. Calming interventions such as breathing techniques can be an indirect way of supporting the gut microbiome whilst also supporting your nervous system.