The system of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa living on your skin and in your mouth, nose, throat, lungs, gut, and urogenital tract, is referred to as the “human microbiome.” Our gut health is directly related to our microbiome and varies from person to person based on factors such as diet, health history, geographic location, and even ancestry.
We need to strive to keep our microbiome in balance or otherwise we become ill. The organisms that make up your microbiome perform many functions in the body, including supplying critical vitamins to fighting pathogens and modulating weight and metabolism.
Here are some tips on how to maintain a healthy gut:
- Eat a healthy diet – a diet rich in nutrients will help you to feel vibrant and alive because your microbiome is thriving. A healthy diet includes:
- Consuming fresh, organic, unprocessed foods
- Eating an alkalized diet full of greens and sprouts
- Avoidance of sugars (sugars fuel the bad bacteria)
- Including fiber from whole food sources (veggies, beans, nuts, seeds)
- Avoidance of food that is hard to digest – gluten, dairy, MSG, etc.
- Chewing your foods thoroughly to improve digestion
- Avoid antibiotics and medications as much as possible – remember that antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria, as well as many pharmaceutical medications. If you’re taking medications on a daily basis or antibiotic more frequently than once a year, it will be necessary to replenish your beneficial bacteria through probiotic supplements d fermented foods.
- Limit alcohol consumption – it’s best to avoid or limit consumption of alcohol because it kills off the beneficial bacteria, impairs digestion, increases acidity, and is a contributing factor to intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”). Intestinal permeability adversely impacts nutrient absorption.
- Take a break from the birth control pill – be aware that the pill depletes your B12, folate and zinc levels, as well as killing of your good bacteria. Of course, contraception is the obvious benefit of taking the pill, but if possible, it may be a good idea to take a break from it or at least making a concerted effort to focus on a gut-healthy diet while taking it.
- Limit use of hand sanitizers – overuse of antibacterial soaps and antimicrobial agents may actually be causing more harm than good. Overdoing it can cause a lack of exposure to the bugs that help create immunity.
- Include lots of fermented foods in diet – kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso are just some of the important fermented foods to encourage microbiome balance.
- Practice stress management technique/s daily – if our bodies are in a constant “fight or flight” mode, our digestive system partially shuts down. Long-term stress means a lack of blood supply to your digestive tract and a lack of gastric secretions – contributing to poor gut health. There are many forms of stress management – guided imagery, visualization, meditation, etc. One of the most simplest forms is diaphragmatic breathing (or “belly breathing”) to reverse the stress response.