First off, a little recap on what your gut microbiome is: picture an ecosystem that’s living inside your digestive pipes, made up of billions of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. They’re all in there milling about, weighing up to 2kg (more than the average brain) and, if working in harmony, do everything from excrete toxins, to regulate mood, hormones and weight, and keep your immune system healthy.
When your microbiome is out of whack – let’s say all those yeast are arguing with the fungi and having run ins with the bacteria – your body will start to tell you. It could be via tummy troubles such as bloating, gas, reflux, maybe some constipation or diarrhoea. Or more seriously, research has shown that poor gut function has been linked to depression, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, chronic fatigue, eczema and other serious health problems.
It’s easy to see why so many experts call the microbiome the gateway to health. To start feeling better on the inside and out, begin in your belly, and try these instant gut health boosters:
1. Eat healthy fats
Good fats are vital for healthy immune function and increase your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and promote healthier gut bugs. Add coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, almonds and oily fish to your shopping list.
2. Supplement smartly
Try an easily absorbed, essential nutrient blend such as Vital All-In-One, which is loaded with gut-loving pre and pro biotics as well as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Simply mix two teaspoons into a glass of water or your morning smoothie.
3. Load up on vegetables
Your mum was right. Your gut loves vegies because they provide the triple whammy of nutrients it needs to run effectively, fibre to keep things ‘regular’ and vegies such as onion, garlic, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are also prebiotic foods, which provide food for the healthy bacteria in there.
4. Beware of the ‘sugar-free’ label
Artificial sugar replacements are widely used in ‘sugar-free’ soft drinks, ice creams, yoghurts, cookies etc and some studies have shown that they can negatively affect the gut microbiota. One study in the journal PLoS One found that rats fed the artificial sweetener aspartame had higher Clostridium and Enterobacteriaceae in their intestines, both of which are bacteria that are associated with disease when present in very high numbers.
5. Find your decompressor
Exposure to stress can change the balance of bacteria that naturally live in the gut, according to research published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity. Offsetting some of the effects of stress on your body could help, which means finding your antidote and habitually using it. It might just be that yoga, running, boxing, meditation or hiking in nature could be good medicine for your gut.