A healthy microbiome is key to living a healthy life. As more research is conducted on gut health and the 5 lbs of bacteria that reside in your body, researchers continue to make discoveries about its connection to a variety of diseases and conditions, from anxiety and mood to obesity and IBS.
About Your Small Intestine
The small intestine breaks down food and absorbs nutrients. Inside your small intestines is a combination of good and potentially harmful bacteria.
The lining of your small intestines is an extremely thin layer that acts as a protective barrier as bacteria passes through. Too much bad bacteria can compromise this thin lining. Once compromised, non-nutritive materials can slip into your bloodstream.
An unhealthy gut can impact your:
- Immune system. As a response to non-nutritive materials slipping into your bloodstream, your immune system launches a response, resulting in inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying theme in preventable chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Almost 70 percent of the immune system is regulated in your gut.
- Nutrient absorption. A balanced diet – for balanced bacteria – is necessary for proper absorption of nutrients. Without proper nutrient absorption, your body can become deficient. Minerals like zinc and magnesium play an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning. Possible signs that you’re deficient range from weakness and fatigue to muscle cramps and constipation – Related reading: “7 Minerals and Signs You Could Be Deficient.”
- Digestion. Your digestive tract relies on a variety of foods moving through the intestines for nutrient absorption. For example, eating high amounts of fat can slow digestive system function. Not getting enough insoluble fiber can increase constipation.
- Weight. As featured by the Mayo Clinic, studies are connecting bacteria to its effect on energy absorption. “Researchers have identified a difference in the types of bacteria found in a lean person’s gut versus those that live in the gut of someone who is obese. The amount of energy is small, but researchers wonder if over time this could be a factor in weight maintenance.”
When it comes to creating a healthy gut, the goal is for both the good and potentially harmful bacteria to stay balanced. Here are 4 ways to promote good gut health.
4 Steps For a Healthier Gut
Step 1: Eat prebiotic foods full of fiber
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that stimulate the growth of the healthy bacteria in your gut. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber and the type of sugar (oligosaccharides) in fruits and vegetables set up a healthy intestinal environment that allows good bacteria to thrive.
Prebiotic fiber can be found in foods such as dry beans (cooked soybeans, lentils, split peas and kidney, pinto, black, lima, garbanzo, navy and Great Northern bean), and vegetables and fruits (cooked spinach, artichokes, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, pears, raspberries and strawberries, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage.
A macronutrient tracker on your smartphone, such as MyFitnessPal, can help you track your fiber.
Step 2: Eat probiotic foods that are fermented
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria you’re feeding with the prebiotics we just mentioned!
Probiotics already exist naturally in your gut – it’s the live bacteria and yeasts aka “the good” microorganisms.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics assist in decreasing the number of “bad” bacteria in your gut, replacing the body’s “good” bacteria, and restoring the body’s “good” versus “bad” bacterial balance. Some foods with probiotics include kombucha, miso, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and pickles.
There are thousands of different strains of this bacteria. You can read more in-depth about the different types here.
Step 3: Avoid foods that damage the intestinal lining
Avoid highly processed and refined foods, such as cookies, muffins, cakes, crackers, bread, cereals, pasta, and probably most things you’ll find with a lengthy ingredient list and marketing claims.
These contain chemicals from manufacturers that are often not absorbed well, such as the sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute even did a study on just how damaging HFCS is to your intestinal lining.
If you want to read more about the impact of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome and gut flora, check out Artificial Sweeteners and Gut Health: Are They Linked?
Stick to whole foods in their natural form.
Step 4: Drink water
Water naturally improves digestion to help break down foods. As detailed by the Mayo Clinic, water helps break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. These vitamins are carried to the body’s tissues – but are not stored in the body – and are found in plant and animal foods or dietary supplements; They must be taken in daily, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation.
How WellnessFX Can Help
Curious about where your own inflammation and nutrient levels are?
The best way to know is to get a blood test. Once you know where you are on the risk scale, you’ll know what lifestyle changes you should incorporate. If you re-test after approximately four months, the time it takes for blood cells to regenerate, you’ll better understand if your changes have been working. Talk to your doctor or a WellnessFX practitioner. A WellnessFX practitioner can provide you with a customized action plan based on your health profile.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.