From products to dietary recommendations, we are constantly inundated with ways to foster a healthy microbiome in the gut. It can be hard to wade through all of the science and all of the advertisements to get down to what is actually good for your gut. The bacteria in our gut serves an important purpose and leads to your overall health. Fostering a healthy microbiome in the gut is not all that complicated if you eat a healthy, varied diet full of the right foods.
What is a Gut Microbiome?
Everyone’s gut is full of microorganisms, mostly different types of bacteria, that help digest the food you eat and absorb nutrients. There are literally millions of these microorganisms living in your intestinal tract, making up a microbiome in the gut. Not only do these microorganisms contribute to your digestive health, but they also contribute to your metabolism, body weight, immune response, and even your mood. We could not survive without a microbiome in the gut.
The fascinating thing is that every individual person has a unique microbiome in the gut. There are a lot of factors that contribute to what is in your gut microbiome. The bacteria living in your gut started to develop from the moment you were born. Your genetics, your parents’ health, how you were born, and whether you were breast-fed or bottle-fed all influence the creation of a microbiome in the gut and contribute to which types of bacteria can survive and thrive in your gut.
Throughout our lives, many factors continue to influence what bacteria live in the microbiome in the gut. Stressful events and illness can affect what happens in your gut’s microbiome, but so can certain behaviors like exercise and your diet. A person’s environment also affects the bacteria living in their gut. Someone living in Australia, for instance, is going to have a much different microbiome makeup than someone living in South America because the environment is different and the types of food people eat are different.
A Healthy Microbiome in the Gut
Research shows that the more diverse the microbiome in the gut is the lower a person’s risk of disease and allergies, so it is important to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome. Since everyone’s microbiome is a little different, the health of those microbiomes is going to look different. But generally speaking, a healthy gut has a barrier that keeps the contents of the gut from seeping into the bloodstream, helps fight off infection, and it can successfully perform its usual digestive functions.
How do you go about creating a healthy microbiome in the gut? A lot of having a healthy microbiome comes from eating a varied diet, getting plenty of fiber, and either limiting or avoiding the things that are not good for your gut health.
Things that are bad for your gut’s microbiome include artificial sweeteners, nutrition supplements, and processed foods. These are bad for your gut health because they disrupt the metabolism of the microorganisms in your gut – yes, all those tiny organisms have their very own metabolism – and tend to reduce the diversity of the microbiome in the gut. They also tend to weaken that barrier that keeps things from seeping out of your gut into your bloodstream.
Fostering a Healthy Gut
Although everyone’s microbiome is different, there are things that everyone can do to improve their gut health and foster a healthy gut microbiome. Since there are literally hundreds of species of bacteria in your intestines, each playing a different role in your gut health, there is not just one food or type of food that you should eat to boost your gut’s health.
Fostering a diverse set of microorganisms in your gut’s microbiome is important because a varied microbiome is considered a healthy microbiome. The reason for this is because the more types of bacteria you have in your stomach, the more health benefits researchers believe you receive. Since each microorganism in your gut requires different nutrients to be healthy, it is important to eat a varied diet to foster a healthy microbiome in the gut.
There are a number of foods that, when included in a varied diet, can help feed the good bacteria and foster a healthy microbiome in the gut.
- Kefir. This fermented milk drink is made using a culture of yeasts and bacteria – good bacteria, called probiotics. Probiotics are great for gut health, aiding in digestion and weight management. Kefir is also full of calcium and protein. Drink it by itself, or add it to your morning smoothie. If you do not have access to kefir, yogurt also has the probiotics that your gut likes. Kefir seems to be even better for your gut than yogurt, but yogurt is also good for establishing and maintaining gut health.
- Kimchi and Sauerkraut. Kimchi and sauerkraut both involve fermented vegetables. Kimchi, a Korean favorite, has hundreds of variations. It can be made out of any vegetable, but the more common versions are made with napa cabbage or Korean radish. Sauerkraut, a German dish, is made from finely chopped fermented cabbage. Both dishes are an excellent source of probiotics, fiber, and vitamins.
- Kombucha. Another fermented food (seeing a theme here?), kombucha is a drink made from fermented tea that is full of good bacteria. It has a sharp, vinegary taste that can be an acquired taste. Drink it on its own or mix it with fruit and spices to downplay that vinegary sharpness.
- Whole Grains. Whole grains contain lots of fiber and non-digestible carbs. These types of carbs are good for a healthy microbiome in the gut because they are not absorbed in the small intestine. They make their way to the large intestine where they are broken down by the microorganisms living there and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Specific things you can eat to include whole grains in your diet include whole wheat, corn, brown rice, oats, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, spelt, and rye.
- Bananas. Bananas are full of potassium, vitamin B6, and the kind of fiber that good bacteria like. So add a banana to that kefir smoothie or swap out your morning snack for a banana and your gut will thank you. Bananas are not the only fruit that is good for your gut. Blueberries are also particularly good for your gut’s health because they destroy harmful bacteria in the gut and they are super high in fiber. Just about every fruit out there encourages gut health, so if bananas and blueberries are out of reach opt for kiwi, apples, and pears.
- Almonds. Full of good probiotic properties, almonds make a great snack for your gut bacteria. They are high in fiber and full of fatty acids, so go ahead and add a handful of almonds to your afternoon snack. It is for your health after all.
These are just a few foods that you can add to your diet to start boosting your gut health. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with a variety of grains will create a happy, healthy microbiome in the gut.
The microbiome living in your gut is so important for both your digestive health and your overall health. From digestion to your mood, these microorganisms play a vital role in our lives. Fostering a healthy microbiome in the gut is easy if you eat a varied diet full of the things that make your gut happy – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods.
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