3 ways to promote a healthy microbiome
Gut health is vital to our overall health. But many of us don’t pay much attention to it until it causes us uncomfortable digestive issues like gas, bloating, and constipation.
Part of our microbiome is housed in our gastrointestinal tract. According to the National Institute of Health Sciences, “The microbiome is the collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us” . And the health of our microbiome has a big impact on our overall health. It protects us from harmful bacteria or viruses, helps our immune system develop and allows us to digest food to produce energy.
“When we think of gut health, we think of the health of the whole body. It impacts every part of our body,” Maya Feller, a New York-based dietician, told TODAY. “It’s this huge microbiome – it’s an ecosystem that impacts the immune system, blood pressure, blood sugar, hormones…your central nervous system.”
So how do you know if you have a healthy microbiome or if your gut health needs some work? Feller says there are warning signs you can look for that signal an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut:
- Stomach discomfort: Watch for excessive gas and bloating, belching, indigestion, changes in digestion.
- Tired: Research shows bacteria in the gut are more out of balance, with more bad bugs than we’d like, for people with chronic fatigue, Feller said.
- Allergies: Worsening allergies or new sensitivities or food allergies, such as an anaphalaxic reaction or skin irritations.
3 ways to improve your gut health
Everyone’s gut is unique, but we all need to take steps to support the body to maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. In order to keep your gut health in check, Feller recommends focusing on these three building blocks of a healthy gastrointestinal tract:
- Fiber: In general, aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day, Feller said. Try to eat several fiber-rich foods throughout the day to reach your quota. Some foods high in fiber include: 1 cup bran flakes (10g fiber), 1 cup beet greens (6g fiber), 1 cup quinoa (6g fiber), 1 ounce almonds ( 3g fiber) or 2 cups raspberries (16g fiber). ).
- Polyphenols: Eating foods rich in these plant-based compounds, when combined with fiber, helps populate the good bugs in the gut, Feller said. Think frozen blueberries, pinto beans, black beans.
- The water: “Hydration is important for every part of the body. It helps form saliva — it’s the first step in digestion,” Feller said. “It’s also very important for breaking down food and our whole process. digestive, as well as for the brain which makes neurotransmitters and hormones.” Feller recommends a minimum of 2 liters of water a day – “if you can drink more, go for it,” she said.
“When we move, it helps get our digestive system moving,” Feller said. “Walking, lifting weights, whatever it is, the person can really engage in on a regular and consistent basis.”
High-intensity exercise has gotten a lot of attention recently, but low-intensity exercise may be your best bet when it comes to gut health. High-intensity exercise can put stress on the body that slows your digestion, while low-intensity exercise like walking can get things moving again.
But the most important thing is to incorporate movement throughout your day. “Try to find a move you can do that’s sustainable,” suggests Feller. “If you are in an urban center, get off the metro/bus a few stops before your usual stop. I tell a number of patients to walk the nice part of the way, vacuum up and down the stairs, don’t hire someone to pick up the leaves…”
The physical effects of stress on the body are well studied. We know that stress can damage your heart and contribute to high blood pressure, and it can also disrupt your gut health. “There’s a gut-brain connection,” says Feller. Just like the rest of the body, the stomach interacts with your nervous system, and this fight-or-flight stress response can interrupt digestion or shut it down altogether.
That’s why it’s important to incorporate stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises into your routine on a regular basis. Another way to fight stress? Hug! Research shows that affection not only increases oxytocin productionit also reduces the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone.