The gut microbiome. You may have heard of it? The term simply refers to the numerous MICROorganisms that collectively inhabit our gut (BIOME). Did you know these bacteria and their genes outnumber us 150 fold? We are actually bacteria having a human experience! In fact, recent lab and clinical studies show that this gut microbiome is at the epicenter of health and disease.
In the normal healthy gut, these microorganisms exist in balance and contribute to critical functions such as metabolism and immunity. However, a recent report in the journal Science found that one of these normal gut bacteria, fusobacteria, could actually be the CAUSE of some colon cancers. These fusobacteria are generally friendly by-standers and this raises the key question “What makes a gut bacteria go rogue?”
The answer: Dysbiosis, AKA an unbalanced gut microbiome. Thanks to years of following diets high in processed foods and sugar, consuming conventionally raised meat and dairy products full of hormones, multiple rounds of antibiotics, antacids, and abundant life stressors, many of us have dysbiosis. Our high c-section rates set children up for dysbiosis as they miss out on mom’s vaginal microflora seeding their gut. And formula feeding exacerbates the problem. Breast milk has an oligosaccharide whose only job is to feed the gut microbiome and promote a healthy microbe balance! When the healthy balance is disrupted “bad” bacteria run amuck and disease sets in.
I have some good news! You can change your gut microbiome in as little as 4 days according to a study published in Nature in 2013.
So here are 4 things you can do (one per day) to begin creating a healthy gut microbiome.
- Eat the right foods.
Eliminate processed food and sugar, eat a whole-foods diet rich in polyphenols. Aim for a rainbow of colors everyday, focusing on vegetables with some fruit thrown in the mix. Include prebiotic foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, jicama, asparagus, garlic and turmeric. And consume some fermented food in your diet on a regular basis.
2. Take a high quality probiotic.
Select one with multiple strains of the good bacteria such as Lactobacillus.
3. Support your digestion.
Eat slowly, chew your food and be relaxed when you eat. Don’t take antacids on a regular basis. If you are on a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec or Protonix daily, see a functional medicine provider to assist in weaning off these medicines.
4. Find a technique to manage stress.
Exercise and meditation are my 2 big suggestions here. High stress levels have been shown to decrease levels of Lactobacillus (good bacteria) in our microbiome.
Yours in Health,
Science 2017 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29170280