Mind Your Microbes
In the last century, a war was waged against disease-causing microbes. This was an important advance in reducing harm caused by infections. But more recent scientific research has shown us that not all microbes are harmful. And in fact, some can be vitally important to our health and wellbeing. And it is the balance of this ecology that we must pay attention to.
The symbiotic bacteria that we live with – called our microbiome – do a lot of things for us. In addition to playing an essential role in digestion, our gut microbiome helps in the production of nutrients including vitamin B12 and the neurotransmitter serotonin, regulation of inflammation, processing of wastes, and function of our immune system.
So in addition to keeping harmful pathogens at bay, we must also cultivate our beneficial microbes that do so much for us! Follow these Resilient Health Tips to support your gut microbiome:
- Feed the “good” bacteria and starve the “bad” bacteria. What we eat also feeds our gut microbes. Fermentable fiber from vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains and seeds provide food sources for beneficial bacteria. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates found in processed and refined foods, sugary sweets and alcohol can feed unhealthy microbes in our gut. Eating a Rainbow is great for your gut health!
- Consume probiotic-rich foods. Fermented foods with live active cultures carry these microbes with them. Examples include: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, pickles, fermented vegetables, natto miso, tempeh, and raw cheese. You only need a little bit on a regular basis. If you feel digestive discomfort when eating these foods, that could be a signal that you have an imbalance in your gut microbiome.
- Probiotic supplements? Although these may not be helpful in repopulating your gut microbiome, multiple studies have shown benefit for conditions ranging from allergies to digestive health to immune support. See Probiotic Strains for details.
- Use antibiotics wisely and avoid them in your food supply (including glyphosate). Broad spectrum antibiotics may be necessary at times, but will affect the microbial balance as a whole. If you must use them, definitely pay attention to recultivating your microbial populations after your have finished your treatment.
- Practice stress management. There is an intricate link both ways between the brain and the gut. The fight-or-flight response that is activated by stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome. On the other hand, cultivating peace and calm through stress management practices can help support a healthier microbiome and gut-brain relationship.