‘All Disease Begins in the Gut’ – Hippocrates (Father of modern medicine)
Without question, the past two years have given us pause to be more mindful of our health. This includes a renewed interest in our gut health, too. Which is good, because currently, there are 60-70 million people in the U.S. suffering from some kind of digestive disease. Many of which can be course-corrected through diet and exercise. And as they say, good gut health helps promote better overall health.
The super great news here for all those looking to hop on the happy gut train, it’s not too late. See, your gut microbiome isn’t like your DNA that’s hardwired into your system and almost impossible to change. No, in fact, you can completely change your gut composition in 21 days. Imagine that, doing a full 180 in less than a month…after years of questionable decisions. Now, that’s a gift.
So, let’s focus on what we need to do to start on the path to good gut health. First, it’s important to know that our bodies house billions and trillions of microbes and bacteria, most of which live in our gut. Making sure we have a good balance in our gut is key. Research shows that a balanced and diverse microbiome is important to your overall health since these microbiomes communicate with your brain and immune system. Read about the gut-brain axis here.
Balancing your gut will help you build a stronger immune system, a more regular digestive system, help your body control blood sugar levels and absorb essential nutrients. All good things.
Now, how can we change our gut composition and start reaping from these benefits? Well, lucky for us, the gut is easily influenced. There are different factors that impact the gut, and we can make little adjustments to these, which will lead to big changes.
Birth and Feeding
While this is certainly out of your control, it’s still worth knowing how your microbiome comes to be. Plus, if you’re pregnant or looking to get pregnant, this is good information to keep in mind.
See, the way we are born, either by cesarean or vaginally, influences the early composition of our microbiome. During a vaginal birth, we are “seeded” by our mother’s microbiota as we exit the womb. This is the transfer of microbes from the mother to the newborn. Babies born via cesarean have been shown to have a very different microbiome profile because they weren’t exposed to their mother’s microbiota.
Other studies indicate that babies who are breast-fed have richer, more diverse microbiomes than babies who are formula-fed. Certainly, countless factors impact a mother’s decision regarding both birth and feeding. Fortunately, there are ways to improve one’s microbiome regardless of either situation, including baby formula that can act as a prebiotic supplement similar to breast milk.
Now, let’s fast-forward to your current state of being…
Adding as little as 30 minutes of mild exercise daily, can increase the diversity of the microbiomes in our gut.
Your gut and your brain are always communicating via the gut-brain axis. Stress can put a damper not only on your day, but also in the balance of bacteria in your gut. Besides feeling not so good, this imbalance can also open the doors to other things such as weakened immunity, leading to infections and other illnesses.
Taking certain medication, like antibiotics, can adversely affect your gut. While they might be doing good knocking out an infection, they somewhat wreak havoc on your digestive system. It’s like a party, when too many bad folks (infection) show up and you simply must kick out everyone, even the good folks. The same thing happens with antibiotics, they don’t discern between good or bad bacteria, they just bounce everything to the curb.
So, next time you have to treat an illness or condition with antibiotics, make sure you pack your gut with good stuff, like prebiotic fiber, so the probiotics in your gut have a better chance to thrive.
Speaking of thriving, if there is one thing you choose to do for a big change – choose consuming more fiber. A smiling gut will not only help infection stay away, but will help bring a balance to your digestive health which also helps your body absorb more nutrients.
Eat more fruits, vegetables (keep the skin on when you can), switch from common whites to more grains. If there is one food good gut bacteria likes, it’s prebiotic fiber.
Now you’re on your way to goodness. You’ll see that just after making these small adjustments for 3 weeks you’ll notice a big impact not just in your gut but how you feel overall.
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David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, Gootenberg DB, Button JE, Wolfe BE, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014;505(7484):559
Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States | NIDDK (nih.gov)