I know you have been waiting for a post about the gut microbiome. I can almost hear you thinking “When is he going talk about colons”? I had not heard of the gut microbiome before 10 years ago, but now it is a hot topic. The Chinese knew about it thousands of years ago. For certain diseases, they prescribed “yellow soup” (don’t think about it too much). Camel fecal transplants were done by the Germans during WWII.
What is a gut microbiome?
Your gut microbiome consists of the inhabitants living in your intestines. These are trillions of micro-organisms that include bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Some of these are good and some bad. There are more bacteria cells in your intestines than cells in the rest of your body.
What does a gut microbiome do?
Your gut houses around 80% of your body’s immune cells. What a good place for immune cells! Your gut clears pathogens and stops them from entering your bloodstream. Your gut microbiome also plays important roles in digestion, hunger, metabolism and inflammation, though much of how is still not understood. Your gut communicates with your brain though a network of neurotransmitters that run through your GI tract. Bacteria in your gut produce serotonin, a chemical messenger that stabilizes mood, helps with sleep, appetite, bone health, sex drive, learning and memory. All kinds of sayings come to mind for me: “I have a gut feeling”, “Crap for brains” or “Thinking with your butt”. I digress.
How to maintain a healthy gut microbiome?
There are three ways to think about a healthy gut microbiome.
· How to maintain a healthy microbiome?
· How to repair (or grow) a not so healthy gut microbiome?
· What hurts a healthy gut microbiome?
To maintain a healthy microbiome, you need to feed the bacteria that reside there. They munch on fiber. You cannot digest fiber, but your gut can. Most fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains fall into this category, but especially high fiber varieties such as asparagus, bananas, apples, barley, beans, berries, flax seed, chia seeds, nuts, leafy greens, oatmeal and onions.
To repair or grow a not so healthy gut microbiome, feed it fermented foods such as buttermilk kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough, tempeh, and yogurt (with active cultures).
Things that hurt a gut microbiome are sugar, processed foods, high amounts of alcohol and antibiotics. If you need to take antibiotics, consume one of the fermented food microbiome feeders with it.
Many of the things we have talked about before continue to hold up here. Eat less sugar and processed food. In the 1950s, they said fiber was not digested and not needed. Even though we now have a better understanding about the importance of fiber, less than 10% of Americans get enough fiber in their diet. Those high fiber foods not only fill us up, but also feed our gut microbiome. One of the new pieces of information here may be about the fermented foods. Many of these might not be a part of our normal diets (they are not mine). I occasionally have miso soup or sauerkraut (I love a Rueben sandwich). I have to make an effort to steal one of my wife’s yogurt with active cultures once in a while.
Try the three-prong healthy gut microbiome approach for a month.
1. Feed your gut with fermented foods.
2. Maintain your gut with fiber.
3. Don’t hurt your gut with sugar, processed food, or excess alcohol.
It may take a month to notice a difference. You could see improvements to your mood, digestion, metabolism, sleep, sex drive and memory.