What is the big deal about our gut bugs?
Did you know you have an entire microbiome in your gut? There are over 100 trillion little bugs living with you. I mean how much trouble could a few little organisms be? Well our gut bacteria have been linked with autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, mood, gastrointestinal symptoms like IBS. They also help us regulate many of our body functions and make multiple vitamins! The bad thing is that we don't always treat our gut bugs very well. It is true that many are unwanted, but most are symbiotic which means they help us. When our bad bacteria outnumber our good bacteria we can develop leaky gut, inflammatory issues, SIBO, irritable bowel, and depression to name a few.
When we have a healthy microbiome we are able to efficiently extract calories from the foods we eat. Our microbiome also influences our cravings. If we feed our bugs sugar then sugar is what they will want. If we give them simple starches then we will crave those as well!
Some things we cannot change. We cannot change our genetic predisposition nor the region we live which influence our microbiome. Vaginal or c-section, breast fed or bottle fed have influenced all of us, but are out of our control.
So what can we do?
* stop wiping out all of our bacteria by limiting our use of antibiotics.
* stop feeing the bad bacteria processed foods
* limit sugar or simple starches that just encourage our bacteria to crave them even more!
See...it is not your fault that you crave these foods!! But we can stop the cycle by starving
the bad bugs from the food they crave.
*. Increase our prebiotic foods. Prebiotics provide the good bacteria the nutrients they
need and are loaded with fiber. We can get this through many different foods such as
avocado, spinach, brussel sprouts, coconut, berries, olive oil, nuts, artichokes, kale, onions,
garlic, beans, lentils, bananas to name a few. You can also help the good bacteria with
fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, tempeh, tofu.
*. Avoid anti-inflammatories, steroids, and proton pump inhibitors
*. Limit pesticides by buying local organic foods or better yet grow your own (although I can
barely keep an aloe plant alive!)
* Sometimes we need to add probiotics (bacteria) to our microbiome. It is best to choose
one with at least 25-50 billion living CFUs (colony-forming units). Some beneficial colonies
are: Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve,
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. There
are a ton of strains and some are better than others for certain issues but this is a good
point. Another tip is to rotate strains every several months.
Some people can have an increase in stomach symptoms (bloating, cramping, diarrhea) when they try to change their diet and add probiotics too quickly. These people need to go a little slower and should talk to a functional medicine provider about gut healing supplements. This can occur frequently in those with leaky gut (future post!).
This can seem daunting but focus on small changes. One step at a time! Remember progress not perfection