Your microbiome comprises of trillions of bacteria that inhabit your body and help with its essential functions such as food digestion, hormonal regulation, and vitamin production. It is also in charge of getting rid of toxins and boosting your immune system. These microbes mostly live in your gastrointestinal tract, meaning that a healthy gut is crucial to overall wellness in the body.
Maintaining a balanced microbiome ensures that your entire body is healthy and better able to cope with infections. How do you make sure that your gut microbiome is healthy? Let’s find out together.
The importance of a healthy gut microbiome
A happy gut is essential in making sure the body stays healthy. Why? Because your gut microbiome communicates with the immune system and produces beneficial vitamins that help the body fight off infections. Furthermore, gut bacteria affect the digestion of food and the production of those chemicals that make you feel full. This, in turn, helps in controlling your appetite and managing your weight. Your microbiome also directly affects your hormonal regulation, brain and heart functions, and many other aspects of your health. Talk about multi-tasking!
When your gut microbiome is off, you can suffer from all sorts of nasty symptoms such as mood swings, brain fog, anxiety, skin problems, joint pain, digestive upset, headaches, weight gain, exhaustion, autoimmune issues, and frequent illness. Want more reasons to take care of your gut?
Making sure your gut flora is healthy and balanced will improve your overall health, including:
Boosting your metabolism
Bringing more energy to your body
Breaking down the food you eat
Balancing your hormones
Enhancing your cognitive function
Lifting your mood
How does your gut microbiome get out of balance?
Unfortunately, your gut is a powerful yet fragile ecosystem that can easily be out of whack. Many things can negatively affect your microbiome, throw off your gut balance and cause you to gain weight. Your gut can be off because of a variety of lifestyle choices such as:
Excessive use of antibiotics or painkillers
The good news is, these things can easily be managed in order to restore a healthy gut microbiome.
Sleep and your gut microbiome
We can’t stress enough how closely sleep and health are connected. Making sure you get enough rest every day is crucial to your overall health. The first step to ensuring your microbiome is healthy starts with having enough sleep. Sleep is indeed essential for your gut health and weight control.
Failing to have a consistent sleep schedule adversely affects your body’s natural rhythm - aka the circadian rhythm - which can then interfere with your gut health. Studies at Harvard indicate that the circadian rhythm is paramount to ensuring that the body and mind perform optimally. For instance, it is the circadian rhythm that tells the body to produce more melatonin when it gets dark and when to sleep or relax. It regulates the normal functioning of the body. When sleep deprivation sets in, this rhythm is affected, compromising overall health and disrupting the ever so important microbiome.
Research conducted by Sleep, Metabolism and Health Centre at the University of Chicago showed that inadequate sleep led to increased appetite and hunger. When sleep-deprived, the body tends to compensate for the extra hours it is active through excessive eating. This all makes an individual eat more food and thus gain weight.
Scientists who have been studying the importance of sleep and its relationship with microbiome have found that sleep impacts the microbial ecosystem. In turn, the microbiome affects your circadian rhythm by altering the hormones that regulate sleeping and waking up. Sleep deprivation thus interferes with your gut health, which can result in consequences such as weight gain.
Diet and your gut microbiome
When we consume certain types of food, we damage and deplete our beneficial gut bacteria. Studies show that a low count of gut bacteria increases the risk of weight gain. Therefore, if you want to maintain or lose weight, it is advisable to ensure that you have a rich gut flora. Gut bacteria help in preventing weight gain by breaking down the food digested by the body. It is thus important to stick to a diet that is microbiome-friendly.
If you ingest junk food for example, you tend to interfere with the gut flora negatively since this type of food causes inflammation and ultimately weight gain. Therefore, make sure you keep track of what food you nourish your body with and choose a meal plan that is king to your gut bacteria. A microbiome diet supports a healthy gut, which can in turn help you effectively control your weight.
What to eat for a healthy gut
Eating the right food is essential for protecting your gut microbiome. Basically, all foods that cause inflammation should be kept to a minimum. Refined Omega-6 vegetable oils such as soybean, canola and other seed oils are harmful for your gut microbiome in the intestines. They are full of polyunsaturated fats which cause inflammation. Try to avoid them as much as possible to keep your gut happy and healthy.
Ideally, try to embrace foods that are rich in Omega-3 fats instead, including wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocados. Furthermore, making sure you eat a diet that is rich in fiber and protein supports your gut bacteria.
What does a microbiome diet look like?
Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you’re prepping a meal (your gut will thank you!):
Eat whole and unrefined food instead of the processed version
Stock up on fiber-rich food
Cut out refined carbs and sugars
Turn to Omega-3 fats
Don’t shy away from probiotic supplements if needed
Eat your veggies!
Include oil in your diet with which contain excellent fat-burning properties
Try fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi and miso
Embracing a microbiome diet will help in repairing the digestive system and balancing the gut ecosystem.
How to improve your microbiome
Your lifestyle choices and the types of food you consume can significantly contribute to the health of your digestive system. If you want to heal your gut, a great way to do so is by following the “4Rs” principle.
Remove trigger foods that cause adverse reactions in the digestive system.
Repair the gut by consuming extra vitamins, fiber, and protein - all great for your internal flora.
Restore your microbiome with probiotics and fermented foods.
Replace stomach acid with digestive enzymes that are essential for digestion and aid in the breakdown of food.
Don’t know how to include these requirements into your everyday diet? Sign up for the 8fit app to get started with gut-friendly meal plans.