Did you know that we’re all crawling with an amazing metropolis of bacteria? Inside and out, from our skin to our intestines, there are about two kilos worth of these invisible friends working tirelessly toward our well-being.
Like any metropolis, the community is diverse, with over 100 trillion single-celled organisms (outnumbering human cells 10-1) merrily coexisting. Collectively, these helpful micro-organisms affect your mood, mental focus, immune system function, fat storage, vitamin synthesis and behaviour development.
Until recently we knew very little about the role of the microbiome in relation to human health. However, what we do know is that you can have a very direct impact on your bacterial community. You can consider it your very own personal ecosystem and it is in your best interest to keep your microbiome well balanced. For example, your gut holds over 500 million neurons that are connected to your brain. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that even mild stress can interfere with digestion, drive yeast overgrowth and cause inflammation in the gut. It is even estimated that an incredible 95% of the body’s serotonin levels are produced in the digestive tract. Due to the gut/brain axis at work, it is no wonder why gut disorders have been linked to depression and anxiety.
Thankfully, you are the master of your microbiome, which is highly dynamic and can be easily influenced by a number of positive behaviours. Just to kick things off, here are a few tips to help you and your bacterial pals on the path to good digestion, a balanced mood, clear thinking, glowing skin and overall vibrant health.
Get your fibre from vegetables and low-sugar fruits as your beneficial gut microbes feed off fibre. Try introducing asparagus, radishes, peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, jerusalem artichokes, raspberries and pears.
Send fermented foods down the hatch as they are rich in healthy microbes. Studies have shown that fermented vegetables help restore gut microbiota after antibiotics and help alleviate IBS symptoms. My favourites are pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.
Say no to the overconsumption of simple sugars and processed foods. Sugar wreaks havoc on your digestive system and feeds the growth of yeast, candida and bad bacteria. I suggest keeping processed sugar to a minimum to keep blood sugar balanced and gut bacteria balanced.
Abbie O’Rourke is a qualified nutritionist and founder of Feel Fresh Nutrition in Auckland. She is passionate about helping others to take control of their own bodies using nutrition, science and intuition as her tools. Abbie specialises in gut health, weight loss, pregnancy health, specialty diets and emotional eating. Abbie has a strong focus on healthy lifestyles in the workplace and provides dynamic on-site corporate wellness programs tailored to different working environments.