So following on from our previous blog about our Microbiome and how it affects our immunity… this blog post will just give us a more general look at the Microbiome and how it affects your gut health.
A Microbiome 101 if you will…
You’ve potentially heard about the good bacteria living within your digestive system, and may have even thought about taking a probiotic to support them. Most of us have seen that Inner Health Plus Ad on TV. But what is the Microbiome?
So to recap, remember, the microbiome is this internal community – encompassing a massive 38 trillion microbes (not just bacteria) – that are collectively referred to as your commensal microbiome. When healthy and balanced, your microbiome has wide-reaching health effects, such as:
- manufacturing important vitamins you need
- helping to modulate and boost your immune system
- assisting with waste elimination (therefore supporting healthy bowel function)
- and even influencing your mood
However, your diet and lifestyle choices can negatively impact the health of your microbiome; resulting in a reduction in both the numbers and/or diversity of the organisms within your gut. Disruption to your internal microbial community can then create an environment where pathogenic (disease causing) organisms have the opportunity to grow and prosper. We don’t want this outcome.
This state of imbalance is termed ‘dysbiosis’, and can lead to a plethora of negative health effects, including digestive problems, nutrient deficiencies, or maybe a compromised immune system (which is what we discussed last time) – these are all common consequences when the microbiome becomes imbalanced.
Here are five of the most common diet and lifestyle factors that may negatively impact the health of your microbiome.
Do you answer yes to any of these?
Five ways you can upset your microbiome:
- Eating a low fibre diet: as your gut microbes rely on the fibre in your food for fuel, a low fibre diet leads to a reduction in the diversity of your microbiome.
- Alcohol intake: the consumption of alcohol can result in dysbiotic changes in your intestinal microbiome, and also triggers gastrointestinal inflammation. If you already have some gut inflammation, it’s really like adding fuel to the fire. If you’re consuming more than one standard drink per day, your microbiome’s probably keen for you to abstain a bit more often!
- Unmanaged stress: when you are stressed, the release of the stress hormone cortisol, and adrenaline sensitise your body to inflammation, including gut inflammation. This disrupts the gut environment, compromising the conditions your beneficial microbes need to flourish.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle: lack of exercise has also been linked to reduced microbial diversity in the gut – another reason to get moving!
- Antibiotic use: a round of antibiotics does lead to some loss of core commensal organisms (antibiotics are supposed to kill off bacteria however in this instance the good stuff goes too). This leaves the gut susceptible to microbiome imbalances and dysfunction. Due to this disruption, up to 10% of people experience gastrointestinal side effects from antibiotic use, referred to as antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD).
So if you have any of the 5 above, chances are there are some dysbiotic changes to your microbiome and you could do with some digestive support. This can be varied and depends on the individual and isn’t always supplement based.
Someone may need a probiotic, another may need to use a supplement to reduce the inflammation to the gut lining (mucosal barrier). Some just may need to lay off the alcohol and eat a wider variety of vegetables. Some may need to get there butt outdoors and get moving!
My advice would be to re-read the top 5 list above, see how many of these relate to you. Then read the other blog here.
At the bottom of the blog is more nutrition-based advice on improving your microbiome (and your immunity). Follow these guidelines for a solid 6-weeks. If there is no improvement you may need a more specific approach to your case.
Good Luck 🙂