A bad night’s sleep, increased risk of diabetes, heart health, weight gain or loss, and your immune system are all parts of your life effected by your gut—and more specifically your gut microbiome. Gut health plays a prominent role in your overall health, which is why it is crucial to nourish you gut microbiome.
What is the gut microbiome?
Your gut is host to a large and diverse population of microorganisms that dictate how your whole body feels. This community of microorganisms is called the gut microbiome. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other small living organisms, and there are trillions of them living in your gut. Some of them are good and are essential for your health, but some of them may cause disease. Overall, a good rule of thumb is that a higher microbiome diversity it considered better.
How does it influence your health?
Your gut microbiome is established after you pass through the birth canal. One of the first types of bacteria housed in your microbiome are called Bifidobacteria. These bacteria help to properly digest breast milk and all its healthy sugars.
As you grow, so does your gut microbiome. The food you eat is the main way to introduce and nourish the bacteria in your gut. Supporting diversity of microorganisms in your gut will help to control your immune system, brain health, heart health, and other body functions.
The immune system can be influenced by the gut through communication between the microbiome and immune cells. Your gut can control how your body responds to infection and additionally can enforce the gut barrier to stop invading viruses or pathogenic bacteria from being absorbed by the body.
New research has suggested that there is a strong connection (as in millions of nerves) between the central nervous system and the gut microbiome. Certain bacteria in the microbiome can help to produce neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which are chemicals that act as natural antidepressants. Having a healthy and diverse gut microbiome could trigger an increased production in these neurotransmitters.
Many recent studies have shown that the gut microbiome has played an important role in promoting healthy HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These are important metrics of heart health. Additionally, bacteria like lactobacilli, may help to reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, it has also been shown that an unhealthy gut contributes to heart disease by the increased production of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO blocks your arteries and can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
How can you improve your gut microbiome?
- Eat probiotic foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, or anything fermented. These foods contain the healthy bacteria lactobacilli that has been shown to lower cholesterol.
- Eat prebiotic foods like artichokes, bananas, asparagus, and oats. These foods stimulate the growth of bacteria in your microbiome.
- Limit the intake of artificial sweeteners, as they have been shown to increase the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
- Take antibiotics only when necessary. They kill just as many good bacteria as the bad bacteria.
- Eat foods rich in polyphenols, like red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil, and whole grains. Polyphenols, when broken down, help feed the good bacteria in the microbiome.
The material provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. You should always seek medical advice before consuming any new medicines or supplements.