After year of experiencing on and off digestive issues, I decided that I needed to become more knowledgeable about how my digestion worked if I ever wanted to feel good again. When I embarked on this learning journey, it was the beginning of my healing journey as well. The more I understood what my body needed for good digestion, the better choices I made about my diet and lifestyle. And you know what? My digestion got better! I had less bloating, constipation, and pain. I was able to reintroduce food and eat a more diverse diet. How? By taking care of my gut microbiome.
What is the Microbiome?
Our gut microbiome is a balanced ecosystem made of bacteria, fungi, virus. It is unique to us, like our fingerprints. There are trillions of microbes living on and in our bodies and the ones in your small intestine and colon play a major role in digestion. In fact, we are more microbe then human! That’s amazing when your think about it!
What does It do for us?
Our microbiome lives in symbiosis with us and work to keep us healthy. Essentially, the microbes in our gut:
- Feeds on the fiber in our food
- Makes vitamins, amino acids, and hormones
- Produce chemicals that are healing to our gut lining
- Train our immune cells to protect us from harmful microbes
- Help with digestion
You could say that the foundation of our health starts with our microbiome. If our microbiome is healthy and in balance, it can do its job and in turn we can digest our food properly, absorb the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from our food, feel energizes and have a stronger immune system.
What happens when our microbiome is out of balance? You guested it, we start experiencing digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, bloating), fatigue, brain fog, or skin issues just to name a few. If we support our gut microbes, they will in turn support us.
What should i eat for a healthy gut microbiome?
So how do we make sure we have a healthy, diverse microbiome? We feed it it’s favorite food: Plants, more specifically the fiber in plants. Load your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains (ex: quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice) beans (ex: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans), legumes (tofu, tempeh), herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Our microbiome will break down the fiber in plant food and use it as fuel to do their job. Our mother had the right idea when she told telling us to eat our vegetables!
When you think about it, our western diet is based more on processed foods than on plants. Often, processed foods lack the fiber and nutrients our gut microbiome need to stay healthy and have too much sugar, salt, additives, and preservatives. When our diet is based on processed foods, there is a higher risk of developing digestive issues, inflammation, and chronic diseases.
Don’t count calories, count the number of plants you eat in a week to insure you are eating a diversity of plants. The American Gut Project found that the best predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants we eat. They determined that we should aim for 30 different plants throughout the week.
Eat more plants!
If eating a diversity of plants sound like a lot, don’t panic. Start where you are! This week, note how many plants you are eating. Then think about how you can incorporate 1 more. Can you add a green salad to your meal, a piece of fruit at breakfast or one more vegetable to your recipe? If you are not used to eating a lot of plants, go slow. Eating a big bowl of bean chili when you don’t usually eat beans will create gas and bloating. Incorporate small amounts, week over week, to train your gut and build your capacity to digest more plants.
Our gut microbiome plays a major role in our digestion, and this is where we need to start making changes if we want our digestive issues to resolve. There is no quick fix, one super food or supplement that will resolve digestive issues by themselves. A healthy microbiome is the foundation for digestive health.
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