How To Balance The Microbiome And Restore Health
A healthy microbiome is critical for achieving optimal wellness. If you aren’t at your peak, are experiencing hormonal issues, stubborn weight, or have a chronic disease diagnosis, understanding your digestive system and bringing the microbiome back into balance is critical for restoring health.
In Part 1 of this series, I covered the digestive system and microbiome. Today, I want to dive into the action steps we can take to promote optimal digestion and gut microbiome balance.
Keep reading to learn more about:
- How the microbiome is impacted by modern life
- What we can do with our diet and lifestyle to restore balance
Let’s get started!
The Microbiome and Modern Life
The microbiome and modern life are a mismatch. The microbiome is sensitive to the environment and can be damaged by:
- Antibiotics, oral contraceptives, proton pump inhibitors, and other medications
- Environmental toxins that we find in our water, food, air, and personal care products
- Stress and high cortisol
- Antibacterial soaps and living in ultra-clean living spaces
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor sleep
- A standard American diet
Diet is likely one of the biggest influencers on the microbiome. We know that when we change what we eat, the microbiome shifts in as little as a few days.
Diet Strategies for Microbiome Health
What we eat not only feeds us but feeds the beneficial microorganisms in the gut. When we don’t provide them enough of the right food, their populations suffer, and the overgrowth of less desirable organisms or pathogens is possible.
Here are some ways to feed the microbiome to promote and abundance of diverse, beneficial species:
- Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods supply lactobacillus and other beneficial bacteria that colonize the GI tract. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso, and others.
- Choose polyphenol-rich foods. Polyphenols are colorful plant compounds with antioxidant properties. They also are an excellent food source, or prebiotic, for beneficial bacteria. Good choices include berries, cherries, green tea, raw cacao, turmeric, flaxseeds, rosemary, olives, and more.
- Fiber for the win. We know that fiber is essential for digestive health and regularity. One reason is its positive impact on the microbiome. Fiber includes resistant starches like rice and potatoes that have been cooked and cooled. It includes soluble fiber like those found in apples, pears, chia seeds, and sweet potatoes. In addition, prebiotic fibers (like inulin and FOS ) found in onions, garlic, asparagus, chicory, sunchokes, and bananas are also important to include.
- Include plant proteins. Plant sources of protein, like tempeh, tofu, beans, and nuts, not only contain the protein we need but also fiber and phytonutrients that support a healthy microbiome.
- Increase variety. Eating a variety of foods supports a diverse microbiome. It’s that simple. Shoot for 40 distinct plant foods each week. You can count different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, herbs, spices, whole grains, and beans.
- Be careful of fad diets. Low carb, high-fat diets, especially over the long-term, may be detrimental to gut health and microbiome balance.
Lifestyle Habits for a Happy Gut
While diet plays a leading role in shaping the microbiome, many other aspects of our lifestyle also contribute. Here are some tips:
- Manage stress. Instead of allowing emotions to build up and get stuck, ensure you have an outlet for emotional release. This could be movement, therapy, meditation, and many other practices.
- Get ecotherapy. Time in nature calms the nervous system and promotes health. In addition, exposure to microbes found in the soil is good for the microbiome. So, play in the dirt, go camping, garden, and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer.
- Sleep well. Sleep is critical for wellness, detoxification, and healing. It’s also necessary for maintaining a healthy microbiome. Studies suggest bacterial diversity decreases in those who don’t get enough sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, check out these sleep tips.
- Consider supplements. Probiotic supplements effectively modulate the microbiome, especially when used in conjunction with a personalized functional medicine protocol. Not all probiotics are created equal or a good fit for everyone, so be sure to work with your provider for a targeted approach.
While your microbiome is unique to you, it’s constantly changing and adapting in response to the environment. The good news is that your diet and lifestyle shape that environment! You can change habits that don’t support your microbiome and overall wellness. If you’d like to dive in with functional medicine testing and personalized care, please reach out to The Fork.
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