Humans have a profound relationship with the food we eat. From the popularity of dieting trends to the increase in food restrictions like veganism and gluten-free diets, it is clear that what we put into our bodies can change how we choose to lead our lives.
The microbiome diet is a program specifically designed to allow your gut microbiome to flourish. This diet is first focused on removing foods that may cause inflammation, and introducing more nutritious food items for you and the bacteria inside your gut.
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What is the gut microbiome?
“Gut microbiome” is not a term that many people know about, but in recent years it has gradually come into the spotlight as an aspect of your body that you should really pay attention to.
Your gastrointestinal tract contains billions of living bacteria that are responsible for helping break down the food you ingest into digestible macromolecules, which your body can then absorb. This is the “gut microbiome.” Seems simple enough, right?
Actually, your gut microbiome affects more than just your digestion. The beneficial bacterias in your gut protects you against many things, from compounds that cause inflammation to bacterias that cause diseases.
A lack of good bacteria in your gut can lead to what’s called “leaky gut syndrome,” where unprotected spots in the gastrointestinal tract give harmful bacteria a way to pass into the bloodstream.
Related reading: The best vitamins and herbs for healing a leaky gut
Furthermore, the gut is more connected to the brain than we originally thought. The “gut-brain axis” is a communication network between the nervous system and the intestinal targets that they control — meaning the health of your gastrointestinal tracts can have a massive impact on your mental health! This must be the reason why you lose your appetite or your stomach clenches when you’re feeling stressed and nervous.
The brain and gut are so closely tied, in fact, that this study from Oxford links regularly taking gut microbiome supplements directly to lower cortisol levels (that’s the stress hormone).
Lastly, as a system that constantly interacts with different systems, the gut needs to figure out what’s good for you and what’s bad. This means that the gut microbiota also play a large role in your immune system by protecting you from harmful bacteria, viruses, and molecules.
Better gut health means that you’re better equipped to protect yourself from sickness. Analysis showed that those experiencing acute respiratory infections, like the common cold, were taking fewer sick days and getting over their colds faster, after consistently taking probiotic supplements.
Keeping your gut microbiome healthy
There are so many things that can alter the state of your gut health that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. How do I detox my gut? How do I replenish good bacteria after antibiotics? What foods can I eat? What do I avoid?
Keeping your gut healthy is actually a lot easier than you think.
Your gut bacteria can be supported in 2 different ways: Prebiotics and Probiotics.
Prebiotics are plant fibers that provide nutrients to the bacteria. Your body can’t digest them, but your gut microbiome sure love them. They eagerly break down these fibers to provide you with necessary nutrients and vitamins.
On the other hand, probiotics help add beneficial strains of bacteria like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium back into your gut. Higher numbers of good bacteria colonizing in your gut can outcompete pathogenic ones and keep you healthy.
Microbiome diet meal plan
One of the most well-known methods of maintaining gut health is the microbiome diet. The microbiome diet promotes a healthy environment in your gut for beneficial bacteria to thrive in.
First pioneered by Raphael Kellman, M. D., founder of the Kellman Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine, this diet is focused on avoiding inflammatory food items and choosing ones that specifically promote gut health.
This diet usually happens in 3 phases.
Microbiome diet phase 1
At the first stage, which is around 3 weeks, you allow your gut lining to repair by avoiding any disruptive foods, while aiding the gut’s healing with prebiotic and probiotic foods that boost diversity in your gut flora.
The foods you need to avoid for this tend to be high in carbohydrates, fats, sugar, and any additional processing.
Some foods to avoid during phase 1 include:
- processed foods
- high fructose corn syrup
- starchy foods like potatoes, peas, corn, etc.
- dairy products, except butter and ghee
- trans fats
- spicy foods
- fried foods
Avoiding things that cause inflammation is key. Spicy foods and alcohol are inflammatory and definitely should not be consumed often. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs also should not be taken.
Instead, you should incorporate many whole foods. Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut are easy and delicious sources of great probiotics. Vegetables and grains high in prebiotics, like garlic, asparagus, onions, raw cacao, flaxseeds, and radishes give your gut the perfect environment for these helpful bacteria to thrive in.
Microbiome diet phase 2
Phase 2 of this diet continues the next 4 weeks, and allows for a reintroduction of a wider array of foods — especially healthy starches and proteins that have been ruled out in phase 1.
Some newly introduced foods may include:
- gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, rice, millet, and buckwheat
- some dairy, especially yogurts and kefir
- different varieties of beans
Microbiome diet phase 3
In phase 3, you are maintaining the good results of the previous phases by continuing to select foods boosting your gut health, and avoiding or reducing foods that are disruptive to your gut environment.
Following this diet, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier gut.
What other things can affect our gut’s microbiome?
The billions of microorganisms in our gut can be affected by so many different factors.
What’s interesting is that your gut microbiome composition is actually first determined by what you’re exposed to as a fetus.
Gut microbiome is first established in the womb, then developed further as we are born and exposed to different diets. Even the microbiota developed from an infant’s diet has profound effects in helping a baby establish their initial immune system. Babies that are breastfed are scientifically proven to show a drastic difference in the diversity of their gut microbiome compared to babies on a formula diet.
There are also factors outside of food that can change the microbiome composition of your gut. Your gut microbiome mix can develop differently as you age.
Increased levels of cortisol caused by stress can also lower the diversity and health of the billions of gut bacteria defending your body from harm. Antibiotics, something that we all take when we’re sick, can have devastating effects on gut health, either by increasing the drug resistance of bad bacteria or killing off helpful microorganisms.
Supplements that support the microbiome diet
Taking supplements can also give your gut an extra boost of support and protection from toxins, infections, allergens, and inflammatory cytokines, especially during your diet.
Collagen provides materials your intestines need to repair damaged walls, and has anti-aging properties.
Natural anti-inflammatory compounds like Curcumin relaxes intestinal muscles and increases stomach mucous production.
Of course, any supplement containing Probiotics and Prebiotics are perfect for this diet. Our very own Pre / Probiotic has both billions of L. acidophilus bacteria and prebiotic fiber to replenish and nurture your gut.
The bottom line
Your gut microbiome health has a huge effect on not only digestion, but immunity and mental health as well. Keeping it well balanced is important, and taking Probiotics and choosing the right foods can help keep it in tip-top shape.
Interested in cleansing your gut and keeping your gut microbes happy?
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