5 Tips for Building a Healthy Microbiome
What is the microbiome, why is it so important to our health, and what can we do to keep it functioning at peak performance?
A healthy and diverse microbiome is an important part of a healthy body. It plays a vital role in several body functions — from gut health to immune system strength, and more.
Our gut microbiome, which is found in the GI tract and spans from our esophagus to our small intestine, houses trillions of microorganisms that influence our overall health, positively or negatively, on a daily basis. These microorganisms include bacteria (good and bad), viruses, and fungi –key contributors to our ability to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Types of bacteria found in the gut
The types of bacteria that live in our gut’s microbiome have an incredible impact on our health and greatly influence many of our internal systems, including our immune system.
Mutualistic and commensal bacteria are the “good bacteria” that positively impact our health, and either naturally form in the gut, or are introduced in the form of probiotics and supplements.
These “good” bacteria support our overall health by challenging the “bad”, or pathogenic, bacteria and viruses that gather and replicate in the microbiome, typically due to poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices. An overabundance of pathogenic bacteria negatively impacts our health and disrupts our:
- Gene expression
- Nutrient absorption
- Energy metabolism
- GI tract’s integrity
Though a number of factors can challenge the microbiome, there are also plenty of ways for humans to support this critical system. Here are five key ways we can ensure a healthy microbiome, maximizing our health and immunity:
1. Eat a healthy diet
Every meal, drink, and snack consumed passes through our gut microbiome and either positively or negatively impacts its health. A diet that supports a healthy microbiome contains plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and fermented foods. These foods introduce fiber-containing prebiotics, which play a fundamental role in maintaining a healthy microbiome.
On the other hand, a low-fiber diet high consisting of processed food and refined sugar overwhelms the microbiome with pathogenic bacteria, causing an imbalance to the system and often leading to GI inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet, which includes the above plus lean fish, poultry, and legumes, is a great choice for those looking to maximize their diet’s impact on their gut health.
2. Eliminate toxins
We are constantly exposed to toxins and toxicants endogenously and from the external environment. Supporting the body’s natural detoxification process through healthy digestion and elimination may limit the damage toxin exposure can have on the microbiome.
Fiber consumption is a great way to aid digestion and support the microbiome. Fiber consumption improves bowel movements and may facilitate toxin elimination in the body’s natural detoxification process.
3. Reduce stress
Stress, inadequate sleep, poor eating habits, and natural aging can leave people more vulnerable to illness and less equipped to overcome immune system challenges. Studies have shown that chronic stress is associated with gut microbiome contributions to “depression- like behavior and inflammatory processes” as well as mood disorders and other negative health consequences.
In supporting the microbiome by reducing stress, we also support a healthy immune system that can more easily stand up to those challenges
4. Lead a healthy lifestyle
We can improve our microbiome by adjusting our lifestyle habits. Choosing healthy lifestyle habits like frequent exercise, smoking cessation, minimizing the taking of antibiotics only when necessary and as directed, hydrating adequately, and practicing healthy sleep habits will maximize our microbiome’s potential to flourish.
5. Consume supplements
When additional support is needed to enhance lifestyle changes, prebiotics and probiotics in the form of whole food-based nutritional supplements can help improve the microbiome.
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements provide the microbiome with the nourishment and living support it needs to build healthy, thriving populations of mutualistic bacteria. Look for supplements that are:
- High in whole food ingredients
- Low in overly processed ingredients that remove the nutrients
- Scientifically backed to improve microbiome health
GI Stability™, a prebiotic supplement from Standard Process, supports the GI tract by delivering targeted prebiotic action, supporting a healthy gut microbiome, and feeding the growth of beneficial bacteria. GI Stability™:
- is designed for everyday and acute gastrointestinal (GI) needs
- contains prebiotic 2’-FL which studies which can support the growth of beneficial bacteria
- may help support the immune system
Zymex, another dietary supplement by Standard Process, contains a proprietary blend of rice bran, organic carrot, enzymatically processed Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides), and organic beet (root). Zymex promotes a balanced pH range in the intestinal tract, creating an intestinal environment that supports a healthy GI microbiome.
While it may be difficult to create an exact formula for a healthy microbiome, that doesn’t mean that we can’t apply reasonable amounts of different “ingredients” to our lifestyle and consumption to improve our GI functions and give ourselves the best possible outcomes.
Supporting a healthy microbiome with lifestyle choices and probiotic and prebiotic supplements as needed can give the beneficial bacteria in the gut the best chance at thriving.
-Dr. Robert Powell, The “Wholefood Guru”
At Wholefood Guru, we strive to provide the most up-to-date clinical information on improving health through wholefood supplementation, diet, and lifestyle modifications.