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Gut health has been a huge buzz word in the health industry for the past few years, but what does it mean for you? Usually, when someone mentions gut health we think of the good bacteria and think – oh but I’m already taking a probiotic. It has come to light it is not only the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in our digestive system that influences our health but the diversity of our gut bacteria, also known as our microbiome. For healthy skin and vitality, we need diversity of good, anti-inflammatory microbes.
The bacteria residing in our gut (microbiome) weighs a whopping 1- 2kg! The majority of us have around 160 different species of bacteria, with everybody’s microbiome being individual, like a gut fingerprint! We have pretty similar microbiome make-up to our closest relatives or people we live with – and you are about to find out why.
But first, what does our gut microbiome do for us? It regulates our immune system, normalises our bathroom habits (number 2’s!), manages our moods, controls our metabolism, controls blood sugars and insulin sensitivity and produces short-chain fatty acids – which have anti-inflammatory effects. As you can imagine, lack of diversity in our gut microbiome can lead to implications such as; obesity, increased risk of allergies, skin conditions (acne, eczema & rosacea), poor blood sugar control, auto-immunity and total body inflammation. It’s a no-brainer to nourish your microbiome to promote your health & vitality.
So we have your “to do’s”, and “not to do’s” to optimise your gut microbiome.
The “not to do’s”:
- Consume food additives & artificial sweeteners.
- Have a home full of toxins – think of switching up to low-tox cleaning products, remove synthetic “nice” smelling fragrances, drink clean, filtered water and clean beauty products.
- Eat produce without washing off the nasty microbiome killing pesticides! An easy way to wash fruit & veggies is to add 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar to a sink full of water to soak your produce in for 15 minutes. Then, rinse (scrub if needed), dry and store to enjoy.
The “to do’s”:
- Eat colourful whole-plant foods.
- The magic number is 40! Try to consume a diverse range of plant-foods, with the goal of 40 per week. This may seem huge, or daunting, however a red apple and a green apple count as 2 different foods. So reach for those purple sweet potatoes and leafy greens varieties you wouldn’t usually include on your plate.
- Incorporate polyphenols into your diet daily! Polyphenols are plant compounds that health benefits of; reducing oxidative stress, decreasing inflammation, reduce high blood sugars & cholesterol, promote healthy digestion and even promote optimal brain function. Some foods to choose from include; blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, black/purple grapes, red cabbage, purple sweet potato, red onion, broccoli, red & black quinoa and black olives. The darker the blue/red/purple the more polyphenol compounds.
- Eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics promote and feed the indigenous bacteria that already reside in your gut. Prebiotic foods include; asparagus, banana, garlic, globe artichoke, leek, onions, yacon root, beetroot, broccoli, chickpeas, red lentils and kidney beans.
- Include prebiotic-like foods, which increase the abundance of specific beneficial bacteria. These foods include; almonds, green tea and dark cocoa. So yes, dark chocolate is good for your microbiome!
- Integrate fermented foods into meals where you can. These include; sauerkraut (from the fridge section only!), kvass, kefir, yoghurt and kombucha.
As you can see from what influences our microbiome, why people living together share a similar microbiome profile!
This may seem like a lot to add to your diet, huh?
But you can pack a punch into one serving!
Try this smoothie:
- 1⁄2 frozen banana (prebiotic)
- A handful of fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries (polyphenols)
- 1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon of Miss Vitality Elevate Organic Greens & Reds (here we not only have greens but polyphenols, prebiotics and prebiotic-like foods)
- 300ml of water or almond milk – or quantity as desired. o And blend!Please get in touch with our naturopathic team if you have any further questions on gut health or how to test your microbiome diversity.