Believe it or not, your body has trillions of bacteria inside. Many of them are found in your gut (small and large intestine). These bacteria are typically called microbes or microbiota. All of them together make up your microbiome — a community of microbes living together in a habitat. Everyone has a different microbiome that starts with their DNA. After birth, you are exposed to different foods and environmental exposures that affect it.
Your microbiome impacts your body in many ways. It can help improve your immune function, reduce inflammation, and resist disease. It also affects gut health and can play a role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Some studies have even linked gut health to long-term weight management. Given all of these factors, your microbiome is important to your overall health.
Here’s what you can do to positively impact yours.
How to Promote a Healthy Gut
- Eat a variety of foods. This is important for any balanced diet, but we know it greatly affects your microbiome. Choosing foods such as unprocessed beans, fruit, and vegetables can promote good gut health. These can help your microbiome thrive and promote diversity in your gut bacteria.
- Bump up the fiber. High-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans are broken down by your digestive system and encourage the growth of other microbes. Choosing high-fat and processed foods does not promote the same growth.
- Consider fermented foods. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kimchee and keifer are rich in specific bacteria that can improve your microbiome. Choosing these foods on a regular basis is beneficial, but remember to read the label. Yogurt and kombucha have added sugars in many products. Choose lower-sugar options when possible.
- Consider a probiotic. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide a specific health benefit. They work by changing the composition of your microbiome. Often, they can help repair it. There are a variety of probiotic supplements available that can help with a variety of health conditions. Speak to a health professional regarding the best choice for you.
Other factors can affect your microbiome as well, such as your lifestyle. Habits like daily exercise can improve gut health while continuous smoking and drinking can reduce your variety of healthy bacteria. Antibiotics and medication can affect your gut health as well Chronic antibiotic use can disrupt your gut bacteria, although these often cannot be avoided.
It is well known that a balanced, healthy diet can improve your health and wellbeing, but it can improve your microbiome! The next time you meal plan and go grocery shopping, consider what you can do to promote a healthy gut. Then, apply the same thinking pattern to your lifestyle.