The human gut microbiome consists of all the microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, etc) that inhabit your gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms are an integral part of your daily health.
Although we often think of bacteria in a negative way, there are actually numerous beneficial bacteria that can protect us from pathogens, provide vitamins and nutrients, aid in digestion, as well as train the immune system. Keeping these “good” microbes happy comes largely from a balanced diet. Promoting a diverse gut microbiome is beneficial for your immune system, creating a stronger and more stable environment.
How can you help your “good” microbes?
- Eat foods high in fibre
- Fibre is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are non-digestible for humans; however, they can be digested by microbes. This feeds your good microbes directly and helps promote a healthy microbiome. This is the best way to get “good” bacteria!
- Some high fibre foods include whole grains, chickpeas, raspberries, broccoli, and beans.
- For more information on fibre and other diet suggestions visit: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-ng-fibre.pdf
- Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics
- Although antibiotics help us overcome “bad” bacteria (disease causing), they can also kill the good bacteria you worked so hard to get. This in turn decreases the diversity of your gut microbiome, making you more susceptible to further problems. Overuse of antibiotics has caused the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and chronic illnesses.
- If you are taking antibiotics, make sure to finish your prescription even if you are feeling better to avoid the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Probiotics are live cultures of intestinal bacteria that we can consume. They’re found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. They are often used to enhance immunity or replace lost good bacteria due to use of antibiotics.
- Don’t be
afraid to get dirty
- At birth you are exposed to microbes from the birth canal, bacteria and prebiotics in food (breast milk), and from touching the outside world. These bacteria colonize the gut and set the tone for a child’s health. We live in a world where it is often taught that to be healthy, we must be very clean. However, excessive hygiene can actually harm us and is the major cause of a hyperactive immune system (autoimmunity, allergies). This does not mean regular hand washing and showering is a bad idea (especially during flu season).
For more information on a diverse and healthy diet: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/nutrition/Page11115.aspx