The gut microbiome. Sounds like some sort of science experiment, doesn’t it? Did you know that the amount of bacteria on and in our bodies outnumbers actual human cells by more than nine times? The majority of those bacteria are in your gut, where 80 percent of your immune cells can also be found.
What if I told you that every aspect of your health is defined by the ecosystem that lives inside your belly? Scientists are using your microbiome to discover the answers to why we can’t lose weight (even when we eat all the right things and work out) and why we feel depressed (even when things are going extremely well in our lives).
Sounds intriguing, right? Recent research shows that the bacteria in our gut play a huge role in aspects like how well our metabolism is working, our moods, and inflammation.
Our bodies contain trillions of bacteria (microorganisms) in our intestines; this is known as our gut flora. There are many functions for these living organisms, some include:
- Helping the body to digest certain foods
- Producing certain vitamins (B and K)
- Fighting bad bacteria that comes into our bodies
- Keeping our immune system strong
The composition of our intestinal flora evolves as we age and is influenced by environmental factors. If we develop a loss of balance in gut microbiota, this may lead to problems such as functional bowel disorders, allergies, obesity and diabetes. So in order to achieve greater health and longevity, we need to create a stable environment in our gut.
Still need some convincing? Consider two of the newer studies published on this hot topic:
Weight Gain From Bad Bacteria
Professor Rob Knight of the University of Colorado Boulder famously showed that transferring gut bacteria from obese humans to mice could make the rodents gain weight. Yet, many cases of obesity may not be the cause of simply overeating. A diet of poor-quality foods, such as fast food, can kill off beneficial bacteria that help your body metabolize and burn calories. These findings are the result of research into the links between gut bacteria and health, conducted by genetic epidemiology professor Tim Spector of King’s College London. The bacteria in your gut have major effects on your insulin levels, which control your ability to burn fat.
Anxiety From Bad Bacteria
A study done by Oxford scientists on rats showed healthy probiotic supplementation that increases good bacteria gave the rats a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms after just three weeks. Our brain and body are interconnected, constantly sending messages to each other back and forth. If your body is in a state of homeostasis, your mind will feel more balanced and at ease.
How To Create A Healthy Gut
To create a gut microbiome that supports your health you need to create an environment that encourages the “good” bacteria and discourage “bad” bacteria.
Now that you’re convinced, let’s explore what feeds bad bacteria and kills good bacteria:
- Too many antibiotics
- Poor quality, processed foods
- Too much sugar (candy, sweets, alcohol)
- Food additives, such as Carrageenan
- Taking NSAIDs (Advil, Aspirin and Motrin) on a regular basis
- Too much wheat consumption
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
Here are some helpful tools to create a healthy gut:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is predominantly plant based and full of fiber
- When taking antibiotics increase your consumption of probiotics to help replenish bacteria that is being killed off
- Get plenty of sleep to balance out your bodies hormonal systems
- Incorporate probiotic filled foods into your diet (fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha)
If you are struggling with weight loss or low energy, I highly recommend that you meet with one of Unite’s Phila nutritionists and personal trainers or Mount laurel nutritionists to discuss healthy and sustainable ways to lean out. Please email Juliet@unitefitness.com to set up an appointment with Unite’s nutritionists.
—-Juliet Burgh, Nutrition Director and Vice President of Unite Fitness