Deep in your gut, 40 trillion chemists are hard at work helping you digest your meals, making essential nutrients you can’t produce on your own, protecting you from disease, and even shaping which parts of your DNA manifest and which remain dormant. It’s amazing what goes on in the gut! Also, look at how it’s connected to our digestion. Our language in our life even reflects how we feel about digestion. Have you ever caught yourself saying any of these phrases…
“My gut instinct tells me…”
“It makes me sick to my stomach…”
“I bit off more than I can chew…”
“I gotta digest that a little bit…”
And if you’ve ever had a ‘gut instinct’, I encourage you to listen to it!
The study of our gut, also called the ‘microbiome’ has been found to be a community of microorganisms living inside your body. These talented creatures are bacteria, and other single-celled organisms. They’re a bigger part of who you are than you’ve probably ever imagined! And information about our gut health could well be the most compelling frontier of health science.
Your body hosts trillions of forms of good bacteria working in exquisite harmony. Some of these microbes flourish on your skin, but the vast majority take up residence in your digestive tract. The digestive process breaks down food and beverage particles so that your body can absorb the nutrients it wants and excrete the rest.
These microbes also play a critical role in shaping your appetite, allergies, metabolism, and neurological functions. In fact, scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, all of which play a key role in determining your mood. Studies even suggest that your gut microbiota may factor into your risk of developing neuropsychiatric illnesses like ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome. In other words, the bacteria living in your gut have a huge impact on the way you feel.
Our modern western society has adopted unhealthy activities and lifestyles that affect our microbes in a variety of ways. Most are difficult –– if not impossible –– to avoid, but it’s critical to bring awareness to this if we want to protect your microbiome.
10 Ways You’re Hurting Your Gut Bacteria
- Eating sugar – processed sugars actually feed unhealthy bacteria
- Drinking alcohol – alcohol consumption can alter your microbial balance
- Not getting enough sleep – can lead to sudden changes in your microbial makeup
- Overuse of antibiotics – these kill both the bad AND the good bacteria
- Living in a highly polluted area – pollution can affect the amount of bacteria in your gut
- Not getting enough fiber (i.e. fruits and veggies) – fiber is your pre-biotic which means it is food for good bacteria.
- Eating artificial ingredients and artificial sweeteners – these are anti-bacterial and cause the good bacteria to die.
- Drinking water with chlorine – chlorine kills both good and bad bacteria
- Using anti-bacterial soaps – any anti-bacterial products destroy healthy microbes
- Taking NSAID pain relievers daily – they disrupt digestive flora and intestinal mucus.
If any of these apply to you, it may be time to take a harder look!
This is a 4-part series of posts in which I will share my best tips, insights and guidance on how to nourish your own microbiome.
In this first post, here are 3 suggestions to nurture a healthy microbiome and to support a flourishing collection of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract:
1) Don’t kill the good ones.
I know we sometimes need antibiotics when they’re necessary and I’m not a doctor, but there are a few more natural options in many cases that work. The #1 reason I haven’t been on an antibiotic in over 16 years is that I know our body has the ability to heal itself if we just let it. With that being said, I recommend steering clear of unnecessary antibiotics because they do the job of killing off any virus or bad bacterias, but they also kill off some of that good bacteria that we need.
The other area to be mindful of is environmental toxins. Eating less processed foods and more organic is a good place to start. And using non-toxic cleaners such as the Shaklee Get Clean line of products because we want to create good conditions for microbial health and not overload that environment with toxins that destroy our good bacteria.
2) Don’t feed the bad ones.
A diverse population of health-promoting flora protects your gut from the less helpful strains. But not all flora are good for you. A diet high in sugar, unhealthy fat, and processed foods can feed the very kinds of flora that will cause gas, discomfort, bloating, and chronic inflammation. More about those foods that support gut health in Part 2 next week.
3) Feed the good ones.
Probiotics are the so-called “good” microorganisms inside your gastrointestinal tract. They aid in digestion and keep your tummy happy. Like all living things, probiotics must be fed in order to remain active and vibrant.
Prebiotics are the food that probiotics need to thrive. They’re a type of plant fiber that humans can’t digest and that take up residence inside your large intestine. The more of these prebiotics you feed to your probiotics, the more efficiently they’ll do good work inside you.
The simplest way to think of it is this: If you want to nurture good bacteria, eat lots of fiber. Whole plant foods — especially fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains — have the most.
What do you do to support your gut? I’d love to hear!
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I will talk about 10 signs you might have some trouble brewing in your gut and go more in-depth about the foods that can support you for major improvements.