As we explained in part 1, new research confirms something that has long been accepted anecdotally- eat a varied diet, especially one full of fruits and vegetables. Eating the same oatmeal and banana breakfast every day? Change it up! The more varied your diet, the happier your microbiome. It’s suggested that you eat at least 30 different fruits, vegetables, and grains/grasses per week, and even more is better. Seems daunting? Here’s how to make it happen:
Eat Lots of Fiber
As we mentioned in our last piece, there is almost nothing that you can change in your diet that will have a more beneficial effect than eating lots of fiber. Why? Not only does fiber increase the motility of your waste products (meaning it moves them through your system more quickly and you’ll avoid constipation), but at the same time it also helps prevent watery stools which means you’ll likely avoid cramping and diarrhea. Just these two things help avoid irritation to the gut, which prevents trauma and can help keep the lining of the intestines intact, preserving the tight junctions and helping prevent a leaky gut. Fiber can also directly benefit specific bacteria that populate your microbiome and help your gut. Fiber also slows digestion and has been directly tied to a healthy heart and brain. There are two types of fiber you should try to consume:
Soluble fibers are found in some grains, seeds, legumes, and various vegetables. Examples include oats, beans, peas, and most fruits. Oats, many seeds, LCI, and even peas can be integrated into breakfast fairly easily. Look as well for high-fiber breads, tortillas, and wraps at the grocery store. Fiber-enriched powders are also useful for smoothies and mix-ins and help guarantee you get enough soluble fiber.
Limit Processed Foods
Your microbiome doesn’t just depend on a large and robust population of different bacteria, it also matters what your ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria is. Those who have far more good bacteria than bad bacteria are more likely to have healthy microbiomes A study of 1,100 people published last year in Nature Medicine, classified good gut fauna that protected people against cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, and bad fauna that promoted inflammation, heart disease and poor metabolic health. The study found that the greatest correlation between out-of-balanced microbiomes, where too much bad bacteria was found, was in how much processed food each study participant ate.
This seems to go without saying, but it’s easier said than done. We are surrounded by toxins, and they are increasing all the time. Some, like alcohol, are self-inflicted. Others, like microplastics, forever chemicals, ozone, and biochemical contaminants are ubiquitous, and difficult to avoid. Although clean living has much to recommend it, not every toxin will impact the microbiome directly. Again, taking steps to limit your intake of toxins can make a big difference- do what you can, and for those you have no control over, consider cleansing toxins through a number of means.
Consider Food Sensitivity
Food allergies can wreak havoc on your microbiome and on the lining of your gut. Most of us are familiar with immediate allergic reactions (IgE reactions- true allergies), that cause hives, swelling, itchiness, etc. You can certainly have igE allergies to foods, but when you do, you tend to pick up right away which foods are causing the problem, since these reactions tend to occur within 20 minutes or so. Food sensitivities are more delayed. They involve IgG reactions, sometimes amplified by complement (C3d). IgG reactions can take up to 72 hours to manifest, and when they do, not only might you not be able to immediately correlate to a certain food you consumed, but the symptoms can be different as well. Instead of hives, think bloating, brain fog, gut cramping, low energy, and interference with memory. Because most people don’t trace these food sensitivities to a particular food, they keep eating that food. Doing so risks chronic damage to the gut by causing inflammation that can cause a leaky gut and spread the inflammation throughout the body. Many people with chronic inflammation (a silent killer), can eventually link it to the gut. So how can you discover if you are sensitive to foods that may be harming you? What should you do about it?
Add probiotics to your health regimen
Probably everybody has heard of probiotics by this point, but simply put, a good probiotic supplement consists of billions of beneficial gut flora to help restore and keep healthy your microbiome. Even very conventional doctors will now recommend a probiotic when you are prescribed antibiotics. Probiotics are useful for much more than just ameliorating the effects of an antibiotic. In fact, not only do probiotics help with dysbiosis, but taking one regular will help keep your microbiome thriving. Prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics all work together to make sure that the balance in your microbiome stays positive. All are available as supplements. Although these can make a huge difference, don’t think you should ignore the rest of the advice in this article- prevention is the best policy. All of these tips work together to feed your microbiome.
Implementing all of these tips into your health regimen can have a profound effect on your microbiome, and therefore on the health of your gut, your brain, your heart, your glucose levels, and how you feel in general. Even if you can’t do everything on the list, get started! At least assess yourself for food sensitivities, take a probiotic, decrease your toxic exposure, and change your diet as much as you can toward one that supports your health. Any start is a good start!