Our gut microbiome shows us how truly connected our body systems are. Air we breathe, food we eat, and all other lifestyle factors impact the health of our gut which in turn affects the health of our body and mind functioning. Keeping our gut microbiome happy and healthy in turn keeps our body and mind happy and healthy!
Let’s get right into it. Gut health has been one of the most important research topics for our overall well-being of the century. Our gastrointestinal system and gut microbiome are at the root of physical and mental health.
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What is our gut?
When we talk about the gut, we are referring to our whole gastrointestinal system from our mouth to our anus, the digestive tract, and the microbial community that resides here. This microbial community is our gut microbiome which is made up of billions of bacteria that mostly reside in our large intestine.
There are 10x more bacteria residing in our gut than cells that make up our body! Our gut microbiome is utterly important as this bacteria ecosystem breaks down food, metabolizes us, and helps regulate our immune system. Over 70% of our immune system resides in our gut!
Another responsibility of the gut microbiome to be aware of is that 90% of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, is produced in our gut. WOAH. Yes, our gut microbiome is not only responsible for modulating our immune system but also plays a role in regulating our mood, namely through the gut-brain axis.
Without getting too lost in detail here, I just want to share the foundations of our gut microbiome in which our overall gut health is directly connected to our immune system as well as our mental health. Doctors have even coined our gut as our ‘second brain’. For further reading to go deeper into these points, have a look at these articles: Gut Microbiome 101, An RD’s Video on Gut Health, Gut-Brain Axis & Depression and An Overview of the Gut-Brain Axis.
Keeping our gut microbiome happy & healthy in turn makes us happy & healthy!
Our gut is where our body interacts with all things we ingest - this includes the air we breathe, the food we eat, and anything that enters our body through our skin. A healthy gut yields a properly modulated immune system able to protect our body from bad bacteria and viruses as well as allowing for proper gut-brain functioning to help ward off mood instabilities.
The food we eat primes our gut to help get rid of the bad bacteria and viruses that we encounter.
A healthy gut microbiome
Helps ensure proper digestion and healthy BMs.
Lowers the risk for chronic disease.
Protects our immune system which defends us against getting sick.
Keeps our gut-brain axis stable - impacts our mental health.
Positively affects body weight and metabolism.
What can we do to populate our gut microbiome with GOOD BACTERIA?
Health Coach Challenge: Each time at the grocery store pick up ONE plant product (fruit, vegetable, legume) that you’ve never eaten before. Diversify your microbiome by adding new plant foods!
One major predictor of a healthy microbiome is eating a wide variety of plant products. By focusing on the diversity of plants you eat, you are feeding your microbiome with pro and pre-biotics! Pro and pre-biotics feed your microbiome to assist in growing a variety of good bacteria. Each plant product has its own microbiome, phytonutrients, and fiber all contributing to a healthy gut microbiome. This primes our immune system to help heal us when encountering a virus, unwanted bacteria, or illness as well as keeping our gut-brain axis in working order.
Health Coach Challenge: Make your meal a rainbow! Incorporate all colors of the rainbow in your dinner. For example, make a brown rice bowl with black beans, purple sweet potato, golden beets, and green beans. Top your bowl with grated radish, carrot, and a scoop of sauerkraut. Message me for more details on how to cook this or other rainbow meal ideas.
What else can we do for our gut microbiome?
Go outside in nature and breathe! The more diverse, healthy ecosystems we step into and breathe is beneficial to populating our gut microbiome with good bacteria. Read this quick Instagram post. It's powerful. “Breathe your biome” - Zach Bush M.D.
Take part in stress reducing activities.
Eat foods abundant in omega-3s (seafood, flax seeds, chia seeds, and nuts).
Add probiotic rich foods like yogurt, fermented foods, and sourdough bread.
Take a daily probiotic pill, consult your primary care doctor before. This isn’t a cure-all though, it’s equally important to eat a balanced diet as well!
Move your body. Exercise, walk, stretch, swim, ride a bike, breathe.
Get good sleep.
What to avoid? Sugar, processed foods, and too much alcohol. These items alter our gut microbiome by stimulating the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses. However, by adding a rainbow of diverse plant products into your diet rich in pro and pre-biotics along with foods rich in omega 3 fats you can start to crowd out added sugars and processed foods.
By trusting our gut we can really tune in to what our body is telling us. If something isn’t agreeing with you, food or otherwise, by listening to your body, and you are able to react accordingly. What healthful habits will you be incorporating for your gut health, mind, and body through the season shift?
About the Author:
Gina Ciaccio is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Fine Art. She has a no-nonsense, intuitive, and realistic approach to health and wellness.
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