In this post, we are going to provide you with concrete recommendations on how to keep your gut and its bugs happy and healthy.
A healthy microbiome is one without the disease, it is full of diverse bacteria that produce essential vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, and immune regulating molecules.
We don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg, whether a healthy microbiome is a result of or a cause of a healthy gut, but the goal is the same either way, optimal health. An Imbalance microbiome can contribute to many precursors like insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation, or excessive hunger which can lead to more serious conditions.
We are going to go over ways to keep the microbiome healthy before severe symptoms develop that may require specific treatment.
Let’s start with your diet. There are two elements to a microbiome balancing diet, what you can remove from your diet or lifestyle to limit harm and destruction to your diversity; and what you can positively add to your diet to increase diversity and feed microbes.
Let’s apply the garden analogy. We want to provide proper soil for the healthy growth of bacteria while limiting stress and toxins that can harm the soil. When overgrowth and dysbiosis are in full effect like in your garden you must weed first before working on the soil and then planting. With that said, here are 5 ways to weed the garden of your microbiome to reduce bad overgrowth and dysbiosis:
1. Limit the use of over the counter non-steroidal noninflammatory drugs, NSAIDS for short, such as
Aleve and Ibuprofen. If you use NSAIDs for more than a few days in a row they can significantly impact your microbiome in the gut lining. Your bacteria reflect your food and drug use and NSAIDs can increase your risk for inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, and other gut conditions.
2. Reduce the use of antibiotics – another way to preserve good gut bacteria is to reduce the use of antibiotics, now we are not saying don’t take antibiotics when they are needed, just be aware that they are often over-prescribed and not always necessary. The average American is prescribed 4-5 rounds of antibiotics every year. Even one round can do some pretty harsh damage to your gut microbiota. Have you ever reached for antibiotics just to get over something faster that maybe could have run its course? Or what about for a cold or flu? Rebuilding your gut and the immune system is the best preventive measure towards illness, this is even more incentive towards addressing mild conditions proactively rather than blasting your body with another round of antibiotics.
3. Discontinue using harsh antibacterial soaps and cleaning products – instead wash your hands with plain soap and water or vinegar. You can make your own cleaning agents by combining white vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils that are antibacterial. Natural antibacterials can be less harsh than chemical solvents.
4. Don’t overeat meat – overall it's best for your microbiome to limit your meat intake as well as eating only organic and ethically grown meat. Avoid animals that have been fed hormones and antibiotics. The bacteria that flourishes on a meat-heavy low carb diet tend to be the bacteria also present when inflammation is high. As a suggestion, limit meat to more of a side dish a few times a week instead of the main course every night.
5. Avoid artificial sweeteners – for a healthy microbiome limit artificial sweeteners. They may not have calories so to speak, but it’s now being shown that glucose intolerance is induced by the gut microbiome when these sweeteners are consumed. Turns out they are not so sweet after all.
Now that we’ve discussed the 5 ways to weed your garden next week we'll take a look at the 5 ways to feed your garden by improving the quality of your soil and growing a healthy gut.
Next week we'll continue our discussion: The Microbiome and Digestion- Part III