What is the Gut Microbiome and How to Improve It

Did you know that you have millions of microorganisms living inside your digestive system? 

There are all kinds of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses that live in your gut and make up a kind of community. Together, there are more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your entire body.

This gut microbiome plays a significant role in many aspects of our health.

From regulating our immune system to influencing our mood, there aren’t many bodily functions that don’t involve the microbiome…so we really benefit when it’s full of the healthiest and strongest kinds of microbiota.

And when our microbiome is in poor shape, this is often when disease develops. In fact, the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, made the now-famous statement that “all disease begins in the gut.”  

6 Ways to improve your gut microbiome

So — you understand the importance of the gut microbiome, and now we need to talk about how exactly we can improve it (and keep it top shape) to reap the many benefits of having healthy, happy gut bugs.

As you may have guessed, the food that you eat plays a huge part in the health of the gut microbiome. The good bacteria flourish when they have healthy food to consume.

When the good bacteria flourish, they easily take care of the bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are the root cause of so many diseases.

The most important things to remember when looking to eat for optimal microbiome health are:

  1. DiversityIn order for the gut microbiome to flourish, it needs a wide variety of things to eat. When you eat the same things over and over again, or when you eat poor quality food, the microbiome isn’t at its strongest. Shoot for eating tons of vegetables and fruits, plus healthy fats and lean protein, and you’ll have those good gut bugs getting stronger in no time!
  2. Eat probiotics  You may have heard a recommendation to take a probiotic supplement, and this is precisely why. Healthy microbiomes consist of healthy probiotic bacteria. Probiotics aren’t simply relegated to supplements, though. You can get them from food sources, too. Think anything truly fermented, like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, or miso. 
  3. Don’t forget prebiotics While probiotics are important, prebiotics are equally so. They are the food for the probiotics to feast on. Prebiotics are the indigestible fiber that passes through the small intestine and ferments in the colon. Once there, prebiotic-rich foods like artichokes, green bananas, beans, and oatmeal provide food for the probiotics. It’s this symbiotic relationship that’s at the foundation of good gut health.
  4. Prioritize restSleep is a must for health, and gut microbiome health is no different. Try to get in those 7-9 hours a night for the best results for your gut. Recent studies indicate that poor sleep negatively affects the microbiome, so be sure to make rest a priority.
  5. Reduce stressStress is another one of those things that we have to reduce for our health. Stress, like lack of sleep, can impact the gut microbiome in an unfavorable way. Try to evaluate areas where you can eliminate stress in your life — which I know, is tough. Also, meditation and general self-care practices can help reduce stress levels as well. 
  6. Don’t take antibiotics unless you have toObviously, there are times where antibiotic use is an absolute must. But if you’ve simply got the sniffles and your doc is prescribing antibiotics, you may want to think twice before taking them. Some studies suggest that antibiotic use can affect the health of gut flora for years. Others have found links between antibiotic use in children and obesity, asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases. 

What are the best foods for the gut microbiome?

As a general rule, vast amounts of vegetables and fruits are the best foods for making the microbiome strong.

Look for foods that are high in fiber and nutrient-dense. Try to avoid added sugars and simple carbohydrates as much as possible.

Try to eat seasonally as well — this rotational way of eating ensures your gut is getting that crucial variety it needs to thrive.

Some of my favorite foods to recommend for gut health include:

  • Artichokes
  • Flaxseed
  • Oats
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Plain yogurt
  • Berries
  • Bananas

What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

As I discussed, there are a lot of ways your gut health can affect your overall health.

Poor microbiome health has been linked to:

  • Autoimmune disease  
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Mood disorders

Other, less severe symptoms that may manifest as a result of unhealthy gut bacteria include:

Sugar cravings 

Bad gut flora taking over in your digestive tract might make you have those seemingly uncontrollable cravings for sugar. 

Weight gain or loss

Once things start to become out of balance in your gut, changes to weight can result. If insulin resistance is at play, weight may creep on and seem impossible to lose. If gut infections are severe, weight loss may develop as a result of the gut flora actually eating your nutrients before you have a chance to. 

Gas and bloating

When the gut bugs start consuming food at a rapid rate and multiplying, they give release gases. Gases that can result in bloating and discomfort. If you regularly have serious gas and bloating — it could be a sign that your microbiome is in need of attention.  

Love your gut flora any way you can — and it will love you back

Prioritizing gut health is an extremely good idea, and I hope I’ve given you plenty of reasons to get started colonizing and maintaining a strong, healthy gut microbiome.

When we focus on keeping our good gut bugs strong, we have a built-in army of defenders against the bad bacteria and viruses that cause us to get sick or even develop diseases.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for any symptoms of imbalanced intestinal microbiota. If you’re having unusual weight gain/loss, gas, bloating, or intense sugar cravings, it may be time to call in a doctor before things get too serious. 

If you’d like to schedule a time to chat with me about your gut health, you can do so here.


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