Cleaning Out Your Microbiome
Did you know that we're made up of 90% bacteria? And that these bacteria, which make up your microbiota, are the most essential contributor to our health and wellbeing.
Your gut microbiome (aka gut flora or 'good bacteria') refers to the total sum of bacteria that live in a person’s gut, their DNA, and the gut itself.
Among other functions, the microbiome:
regulates digestion, intestinal function, and absoption
protection against infection
produces essential vitamins and nutrients
maintains the gut wall and protects against bad bacteria
regulates the immune system and inflammation
manages weight loss and apetite
produces neurotransmitters like dopamine and seratonin (the pleasure and happy hormones)
Basically, you want these guys happy.
Think of your gut as a garden. If abandoned for a while, the garden can become overgrown and filled with unwanted weeds. The same is true for our gut - if we don't tend to it and care for it daily it, too, can cause an imbalance of unwanted bacteria. But why am I telling you all this?
Well, not only can a positive change in diet and lifestlye alter the state of our microbome, it can do so within just one day!
There are two elements to a microbiome balancing diet:
What you can remove from your diet or lifestyle in order to minimize damage to your diversity of gut species
What you can positively do to increase that diversity and feed your microbes
Today, we're going to focus on the first. Going back to the garden analogy - as with any overgrown and neglected garden, one would, first, remove the weeds before working on improving the soil and planting methods for healthy growth. So too with our guts, we must, first, clean out our microbiome to reduce dysbiosis, a microbial disturbance within the gut caused by an imbalance of gut species.
6 Ways to Clean Out your Microbiome
Limit the NSAIDS: NSAIDS stand for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some examples include ibuprofen, such as Aleve, Advil, or Aspirin. Taking NSAIDS for more than a few days in a raw can significantly impair your microbiome and gut lining (which needs to be the perfect amount tight - just enough to block out pathogens while still leaving room to absorb nutrients). Taking NSAIDS regularly can increase your risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, leaky gut and other conditions)
Reduce the Use of Antibiotics: Did you know that even one round of antibiotics can wreak havoc on your gut microbiota for up to one whole year? This isn't to say that you should not take antibiotics when needed - just be aware that oftentimes, they're prescribed without necessity. Antibiotics work because they kill off any harmful bacteria. The only problem is that while doing so, they also kill the good bacteria and encourage bad bacteria growth, which we dont want! So, next time you get sick, try give your body the time and space to heal itself by resting a lot, eating extra healthy, and showing your gut some extra love.
Limit Sugar & Processed Foods: Our micobiome is passed onto us by our parents, which is based on what their parents ate and how they digested it. Never in our history have we consumed such staggaring amounts of processed (and packaged) and sugary foods as we do today, especially in the west. Therefore, our gut microbiome is simply not used to and the sheer quantity and rate at which many consume these foods are too much for our guts to handle, which translates into serious dysbioses, inflammation, and the potential for other chronic gut-health conditions.
Discontinue Using Hash Antibacterial Soaps: By choosing to use chemical-laden antibacterial products, we minimize our contact with healthy bacteria, which are neccesary for our bodies to develop immunity that really keeps us healthy. Those who use antibacterial products for prolonged periods of time are at a higher risk for developing serious allergies, immune-related sensitivities, hormone disruption and more. Instead, I suggest using plain soap and water. Sometimes - and don't be shocked when i say this - you may want to skip washing hands altogether. If you're feeling crafty, scroll down to find a microbiome-healthy DIY soap.
Reduce Meat Consumption: The bacteria that flourishes on a meat-heavy diet tends to be the bacteria present when inflammation is high. By reducing meat consumption, I just mean that you should view it as more a side dish multiple times a week rather than the star of the show at every single meal. And when you do decide to have meat, choose organic, ethically growth meat to avoid animals that have been fed hormones or antibiotics.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners don't contain calories but do negatively affect the composition and function of our gut microbiota. By doing so they contribute to glucose intolerance and metabolic syndrome. One study even showed that the removal of artificial sweeteners, alone, was enough to reverse auto-immune disease.
You, now, have 6 things you can do in order to start the weeding process of your own internal garden. Take it one step at a time and make sure to take notice of how you feel while implementing these changes.
Keep an eye out for the next blog post on what foods to eat in order to FEED all the healthy bacteria in your microbiome.