Did you know that 90 percent of the cells in your body are non-human? Before you freak out, consider this: the body of an adult human harbors 100 trillion bacteria, with more than 95 percent of them located in the gut. These little guys wield a mighty sword. Together, this metropolis of trillions makes up our gut microbiome.
We want this metropolis running smoothly. Without it, we’d be in bad shape. Our gut microbiome gives us health, longevity, protection, cognitive clarity, and strength! Let me count the ways!
Our gut bacteria helps us:
•Power our immune system
•Produce essential vitamins such as folate
•Maintain adequate levels of amino acids like tryptophan, which helps us produce neurotransmitters like serotonin (So you can get your happy on. Of course.)
•Produce fatty acids that are beneficial for the body, such as butyrate, an excellent source of energy for muscles.
•Strengthens the blood-brain barrier, letting some nutrients into the brain and turning away others.
Basically, our gut biomes are magic. Our guts are the torch to immunity, the protector of the brain. Without it, we’d be at risk for brain disorders such as autism, anxiety, depression, and dementia. It all starts and ends in the gut.
So how do we keep our gut happy? How do we keep our strongest asset working for us, not against us?
Here’s how to keep a golden gut:
1. Say “Hasta La Vista!” to stress
1. Stress sucks. It interferes with digestion. It leads to gut-health diseases, heartburn and worse. You don’t need that negativity in your life. Start a meditation practice, go on a walk, hit up a yoga class, grab bubble tea with a friend, or strum a ukulele. Do something you enjoy.
2. Make Like Olivia Newton-John and “Let’s Get Physical!”
That song is stuck in your head now, isn’t it? You should dance to it! Being active improves the microbiota in your gut and helps you maintain a healthy weight. That’s important because being overweight can lead to gut-health problems.
3. Let Water Be Thy Drink
I will say this mantra over and over again until you run to the faucet. Seriously. Water helps break down food, absorb nutrients, and softens stool to make bowel movements easier. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Humans are basically house plants with more complicated emotions.” Water yourself!
4. Eat plenty of fiber and probiotics
Our guts crave probiotic foods. We want that spoonful of live bacteria (probiotics) that replenish our microbiome good guys. Eat plenty of unsweetened whole greek yogurt, pickled veggies such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and whole soy products that have been fermented like miso, tempeh, and quality tamari.
5. Avoid antibiotics when you don’t need ‘em
When you get sick, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically time to start tooting the “Gimme antibiotics!” horn. Antibiotics wipe out the good guys with the bad guys, so we have to be careful about how much we intake. That leads us to our next point.
6. Avoid commercially-raised meats for the same reason as above
Meat is a significant source of deadly superbugs because animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – which is the modern-day factory farming – are routinely given low doses of antibiotics to prevent diseases caused by the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in which they’re forced to live. When we eat the meat, we ingest the antibiotics. There are many good reasons not to eat animals, for sure its not worth destroying your gut health.
7. Avoid processed foods
That cupcake might look innocent, but it’s laden with unhealthy sugars that wreak our gut health. High fructose corn syrup, refined white sugar, and food additives are the “Lions, tigers, and bears” of the grocery aisles. Oh my! These three evils increase permeability in the gut, which causes an influx of harmful bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream.
What About Gluten?
Some people can’t do gluten. Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is a real thing. But before you toss all gluten from your diet, be sure to check with your doctor. Gluten-free foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies, most notably a lack of fiber, which is essential for your bowels to work correctly.
When I went gluten-free a few years back, the gluten-free bread and cookies made my gut health WORSE. It was bad. I felt like all the tapioca flour, xanthan gum, guar, and other additives sat like a blob of glue in my stomach. No thanks. Be sure you’re still eating healthy whole foods and not food-like products that claim “gluten-free!”