What is the gut microbiome and how to keep it healthy?
The gut microbiome is the culmination of trillions of ‘bugs’ or what we call microbes, specifically bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more, that live in our digestive tract. Now, particularly after a pandemic, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on avoiding germs. The truth is, yes some bugs/germs should be avoided but there are also trillions just within our digestive system vital to our survival and optimal functioning. Benefits of our gut microbes include maintenance of a healthy immune system, sleep, and overall health, as well as regulation of mood and optimization of digestion. Keep in mind these benefits occur with a healthy or well-balanced gut microbiome.
So how can we support a healthy gut microbiome?
As with virtually all health advice, it starts with the choices we make. What are we putting in and on our bodies? Makes sense that what we eat can boost or diminish our health when we realize it seems to all come back to whether our gut microbes are happy and healthy. So yes, first and foremost look at lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.
There is certainly no one-size fits all diet, but we do know gut microbes survive and thrive on fiber. This is most likely why most people do well on a predominantly plant-based Mediterranean diet. Plants, after all, are our only source of fiber. Believe it or not, our bodies don’t break down fiber. It’s the microbes within our gut that consume and process our dietary fiber. Eating foods naturally rich in probiotics is also beneficial, such as fermented foods and drinks. The phrase variety is the spice of life certainly applies here. The more herbs/spices, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that feed the microbes, the better. To learn more about which foods are best for the body, consider learning more here
The key here is balance. We need to listen to our bodies, but certainly, daily movement, at least 30 minutes every day. Try to incorporate movement snacks throughout the day. For those of us at a sedentary job, set a timer to get up and move every 1-2 hours. Take a walk during the lunch break. Or start a squat and push-up challenge with coworkers. The bottom line, it’s not just the heart that appreciates movement, the gut microbes also thrive with regular exercise
Many of us feel there are not enough hours in the day. Having a regular sleep routine and 7-9 hours of sleep nightly is key to longevity and gut microbiome health. Missing even 30-60 minutes of sleep raises morning blood sugar levels, potentially increasing the risk of disease. The microbes appreciate your efforts. If a patient is having trouble sleeping, please consider a free trial of the Alpha-Stim© device. Fort Wayne IV Lounge is open Monday-Friday 9-6 p.m. Learn more on Alpha-Stim® Therapy - Fort Wayne, IN: Fort Wayne IV Lounge (fwivlounge.com).
Most of us know we don’t feel like ourselves when our stress is not under control. There is a multitude of tools at our disposal these days. Is there enough relaxation time scheduled? If not, take a moment to review this list If not, take a moment to review this list for stress management options. This article discusses how our gut microbes can affect our mental health: Gut microbiome and depression: what we know and what we need to know - PubMed (nih.gov)
in good health
Vishaal Veerula, MD