March 16, 2021
Strengthen your microbiome
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
As we are becoming more aware of what helps and heals our body and what doesn’t, we are also realizing the importance of microbes and how they hold the key to good health. All of us carry a unique collection of microorganisms, made up of bacteria, fungi and viruses inside and outside our bodies. Our gut, mouth and skin each host their own unique microbiome community vital for maintaining a robust immune system, a healthy gut, a resilient skin barrier and overall wellness. And this community isn’t fixed, it develops over time and changes in response to its environment. So we can actually channel it in the direction we want to.
Click to check out Mona's favorite Probiotic supplement
What’s the big fuss?
A plethora of conditions, from obesity to anxiety, appear to be linked to the microbes inside us. Until recently, bacteria in the gut were thought to only regulate bowel movements. However, it is now known that the beneficial gut bacteria synthesize some vitamins and hormones, help with digestion, balance mood, reduce anxiety, and protect against infections and some forms of cancer. But it all depends on how efficiently are we able to keep the good bacteria intact inside us. Our toxic environment, our long-term SAD diet, stress and the drugs we take, such as antibiotics, continue to play a role as we age, meaning our microbiome can change — mostly for the worse — throughout our life. The way out?
Feed it well
There are about 500 different bacterial species and about a 100 trillion bacteria in our intestines. Each species plays a different role in our health and requires different nutrients for growth. Generally speaking, a diverse microbiota is considered to be a healthy one and that usually comes from eating a diverse diet. Here are some ways you could populate good bacteria in your system:
- Make sure to eat a diet rich in both probiotics and prebiotics. Good bacteria are known to thrive on prebiotics like apples, asparagus, bananas, eggplant etc.
- Stay hydrated. Every day, drink approximately half your body weight in ounces of water.
- Steer clear of foods and caffeinated beverages full of added sugars, artificial sweeteners and trans fats.
- Eat lots of fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables. Fiber promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.
- Take antibiotics only when it’s a necessity. During and after completing a course of antibiotics, eat probiotic foods and take a probiotic supplement.
Probiotics & Prebiotics
The friendly bugs that act as a barrier to help our bodies filter and appropriately absorb nutrients are called probiotics and the food they feed and thrive on are called prebiotics. Two of the main probiotic bacteria that reside in the digestive tract are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These can be taken in the form of supplements or included in the diet in the form of fermented (or probiotic) food. Please remember that to extract the maximum benefit from fermented foods, it’s important to read product labels and choose only those that contain “active, live cultures” and preferentially raw, unpasteurized, perishable ingredients. Or just opt for home fermenting as civilizations have done for centuries.
(Dairy) Acidophilus milk, buttermilk, cheese (aged), cottage cheese, kefir, sour cream, yogurt (plain, no added sugar, active cultures).
Non-Dairy: Fermented meats, fermented vegetables, kimchi, kombucha, kvass, miso, tempeh.
PREBIOTICS: Apple, asparagus, banana, burdock, chicory, cocoa, dandelion greens, eggplant, endive, flaxseed, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke).
- Feeding the Microbiome: New ways that Diet affects your Health. Linus Pauling Institute. http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/linuspaulinginstitute/2015/08/14/ microbiome-and-diet/. Published May 13, 2016. Accessed March 3, 2017.
- The Human Microbiome.The Human Microbiome. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/.Accessed March 3, 2017
- Lipski L. Digestive Wellness. 4th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2012.
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier text; 2012.
- Markowiak P, Slizewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):1021. Published 2017 Sep 15. doi: 10.3390/nu909102
- Parker EC, Gossard CM, Dolan KE, Finley HJ, Burns CM, Gasta MG, Pizano JM,Williamson CB, Lipski EA. Probiotics and Disease: A Comprehensive Summary-Part 2, Commercially Produced Cultured and Fermented Foods Commonly Available in the United States. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2016 Dec; 15(6):22-30.
- Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 2008: 153, 3–6. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.