Research shows that maintaining a well-balanced gut microbiome is an integral part of both short-term and long-term health. After all, a well-functioning gastrointestinal tract is the foundation for the health of your whole body, with the ability to affect everything from your cardiovascular system and the risk of chronic diseases to your mood, memory and cognitive function.
“There are a number of medical conditions that have been linked to damage to the gut microbiome,” says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist. New York Times author of his bestseller Fueled Fiber and The Fiber Fueled Cookbook, and the US Medical Director of the personalized nutrition company ZOE. This includes digestive disorders, immune disorders and hormonal disorders (think of everything from PCOS to depression and anxiety).
According to Dr. Bulsiewicz, there is something we can all do to significantly move the selector towards a healthy digestive system that works well – no fancy supplements or complicated dietary changes are required. Ready for this? The key to improving your gut microbiome, he says, lies in a thorough journey through the product aisle. There is no magic superfood here to save you from your digestive problems: The solution lies in the issue of diversity. Simply put, the more different species of plants you eat, the better the health of your gut microbiome.
The term microbiome tends to circulate quite randomly in the world of wellness, so if you are wondering what exactly it means, you are not alone. “The microbiome is a collection of invisible germs that are part of our body,” says Dr. Bulsiewicz. These germs are found on your skin, in your mouth and in your large intestine (also known as your colon). They are very concentrated in the large intestine – 38 trillion, to be exact – and are closely linked to your overall health.
“The bacteria in your microbiome are not just passengers. in fact they try to help you thrive and be the healthiest person, “says Dr. Bulsiewicz. He explains that germs help a lot in digestion, which is the process of breaking down the food you eat into useful nutrients for your body. “But in addition to our digestive health, research shows that the microbiome is also deeply linked to our energy levels, immune system, hormones, mood, brain health, and even the expression of our genetic code.” says Dr. Bulsiewicz. Given the important responsibility that the microbiome plays in our overall function, it makes sense that when the microbial system is out of balance, our overall health may suffer.
What does it mean to have a healthy gut microbiome?
Eat water all day, eat lots of fiber and load your plate with sauerkraut, but how actually Do you know if you have a healthy gut microbiome (or lack thereof)? According to Dr. Bulsiewicz, because we rely on germs in the large intestine to break down our food, the first sign that something is wrong is indigestion. This can manifest as gas or bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea or constipation. Intestinal imbalances can also make you feel more tired than usual or notice something in your bowel movements (such as bloody stools or strain).
A person with a well-balanced gut microbiome, on the other hand, generally does not suffer from digestive pains in their daily life and is able to eat a variety of foods without restrictions. (The exception, of course, is for those with food allergies, allergies, or other conditions – Dr. Bulsiewicz confirms that it is entirely possible to avoid certain food groups and still have a healthy gut.) He is also quick to point out that even If you have a healthy microbiome, you could experience some painful symptoms if, say, you drink five shots of espresso or drink a whole bottle of wine. But for the most part, people with strong gut microbiome can follow their regular eating habits and not have to worry too much about the consequences (again, given food allergies and intolerances).
To improve the health microbiome, focus on the numbers
If you feel that the health of your gut may be less than astral, there is good news: Significant clinical research has helped us discover what is the leading predictor of a healthy gut microbiome and is something you can take control of. As part of the American Gut Project, researchers studied more than 11,000 people around the world and examined the intersection between diet and lifestyle and the health of a person’s gut microbiome. What they revealed through the analysis of all the data was that there was a clear indicator of a healthy gut microbiome, and that was the variety of plants in their diet.
Dr. Bulsiewicz explains that each plant has a unique blend of fiber and prebiotics, which feed on the germs that live in your digestive system. “These germs are as alive as I am. It’s easy to dismiss them, because you and I can not see them. “But they have to eat and have their own unique dietary preferences.” The more types of plants you consume and the greater the range you incorporate into your diet, the more and different types of fiber and polyphenols you get. This means that you provide more food for the different types of germs, which helps them (literally) work harder and better support your digestive system.
So … what exactly is “different”?
According to Dr. Bulsiewicz, the fact that so many people struggle with an unhealthy gut really comes from the fact that most do not eat almost enough plants altogether. “The average American’s diet is only 10 percent plant-based, and 75 percent of the plant-based calories we consume come from only three plants in our diet: Wheat, soy, and corn,” he says.
What the American Gut Project researchers found was that regardless of the diet they followed, participants who ate more than 30 different types of plants a week had the healthiest gut microbiomes. 30 may sound like a lot, but Dr. Bulsiewicz recommends “playing” the process to eliminate some of the exaggeration. “Set points in factories where every new plant is a point,” he says. “Then try putting a sheet of paper in the fridge and keeping track of how many plant points you get at each meal. And play against your family members or your children! ” A little healthy competition to get the whole family excited about healthy eating? we are inside.
Once you start making an active effort to add an extra handful of berries, bananas and greens to your smoothie or make a soup with a whole mix of vegetables, you will find that it is a lot easier than you think to achieve your goal. It just takes a little effort in advance to get rid of your tried lettuce, almonds and brown rice. Supplying new varieties of products, cereals, legumes and seeds will add tons of new and different flavors to your meals — the most important advantage. Exploring the season at your local farmers market can also be a fun way to explore new ingredients that you may not have listed on your grocery store.
Please note that this is not intended to be restrictive in any way. In fact, a well-balanced microbiome requires just the opposite: It’s all about more. Focus on adding new and different plants to your diet, rather than removing anything, to help your digestive system — and overall health — thrive. If you want to dive even deeper, personalized nutrition companies like ZOE are leading the way in creating nutritional approaches based on your unique microbiome.
Conclusion? No matter how you choose to start improving the health of your gut microbiome, you will be pleasing yourself for years to come.
Oh Hello! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts on modern wellness brands and exclusive Well + Good content. Join Well +, our online wellness community and unlock your rewards right away.