Our own cells are outnumbered TEN TO ONE by the cell of the microbes that live in our gut*.
These cells are collectively known as the gut microbiome (or gut flora) and its health is a fundamental mediator of our health. The microbiome help us maintain a healthy immune system (most of our immune cells are in our gut too) digest food, support detoxification and prevent overgrowth of nasty bugs such as yeasts (e.g. candida) and parasites.
Disruption to the microbiome
Disruption can lead to anything from IBS, allergies, autoimmune disease and obesity to mental health disorders including autism and depression (as a result of something called the gut-brain axis)*. It is incredible to see symptoms – which are seemingly very separate from the gut – disappear when the gut’s health is restored.
There are many reasons the microbiome may become compromised: medications such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors can cause bacteria overgrowth, antibiotics wipe out the good colonies as well as bad, poor gut motility encourages food fermentation disrupting the flora, and stress and intolerances takes their toll on the microbiome too.
What can I eat to support my microbiome?
These are made up of good bacteria and simply take up residence alongside your existing gut bacteria (the more good colonies the better and the less chance of pathogenic colonies taking over!)
These can be purchased or made (I’ll show you how in future blogs). Your gut will thank you and its cheaper than taking probiotic supplements – which are a useful tool – but good to start with food first if you can.
- Kefir. Can be dairy or simply water kefir. Available to buy in supermarkets and brands such as Yeo Valley sell kefir now.
- Kombucha. This fizzy, often flavoured drink is also likely to be in most large supermarkets. Equinox or Rude Health are nice brands. You can buy starters called SCOBYs (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts) from health shops if you want to make it yourself. Future blog on this!
- Kimchi (Korea’s national dish) made from salad and fermented veg – sold in Wagamamas if you want to try!
- Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage. Ideally make at home to ensure lots of lovely bacteria are present (recipe to follow).
I haven’t added yogurt to the list above as most yogurt is pasteurised; this means the bacteria is killed off (good and bad), so unless it states ‘unpasteurised’ its not going to have any probiotic goodness.
Prebiotics – food for the good bacteria
These foods contain fibres which the bacteria munch on to survive so make sure you get lots of these in your diet:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Onions and garlic
- Jerusalem artichokes
Understanding your microbiome
If you want to understand the state of your microbiome there are tests which can tell you what colonies are taking up residence in your gut. Please contact me for details. I can work with clients to balance any imbalances (including candida overgrowth).
*Collen, A. 2015.10% human. William Collins. London.
**Bailey, Christine. 2016. The Gut Health Plan. Nourish Books. London