The secret is out! You have a microbiome in your body. This tiny ecosystem affects just about everything concerning your health: physical fitness, mood, immunity, weight, and many other conditions.
Chances are, you didn’t even know your microbiome existed. In fact, many health professionals haven’t known much about it until recent years, either. Research continues, but what is certain already is that you have the ability to make empowering choices about your microbiome, choices that can drastically alter every area of your wellness.
What is a microbiome anyway, and why is it important?
The microbiome is a diverse community of bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in your digestive tract. You may have known that beneficial bacteria support healthy digestion, but that’s just the beginning. Optimal weight, hormonal balance, illnesses, mental clarity, balanced emotions—these are all connected to your biome. Don’t all sound related to “gut problems,” right? People are not always aware of this contributing factor, and that’s why “gut flora” is such a popular topic of discussion, research, and treatment today.
How is the state of your intestinal flora crucial to your overall health and wellbeing?
We all have both beneficial and undesirable bacteria and fungi living with us, inside and out. Your gut is home to the most diverse of these natural micro-communities. Keeping the unwanted microbes under control is the job of the good bacteria. But when those helpful microbes decrease or harmful populations grow out of control—an imbalance called dysbiosis—problems can crop up all over the body. Signs of dysbiosis can come in the form of gas and bloating, joint pain, decreased immunity, inflammation, sugar cravings, weight gain, foggy thinking, mood swings, fatigue, allergies, skin conditions, and a whole host of complaints that I see in my office every day. Whew!
Do you have a “leaky gut”?
During a state of dysbiosis, the lining of the intestinal tract can become stressed and weakened to the point that it stretches. This wounded digestive tissue is known as “leaky gut” when it is no longer an effective barrier, allowing microbes that normally live inside the gut to pass through into the abdominal cavity, where they don’t belong. A host of new problems can result when these escaped cells begin repopulating outside the intestines, with no beneficial flora there to keep them in check. Infections caused by candida, a strain of yeast, are among the most common examples of microbes migrating through a leaky gut and running out of control elsewhere.
An imbalance of the good and bad flora in your digestive tract depends on many variables, and for each of us, the answer might be different. However, some of the most prevalent triggers come from
• diet: gluten, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, or sugar,
• medications: prescription antibiotics or over-the-counter NSAIDS for pain,
• stress: physical, emotional, and mental strain which damages beneficial flora,
• toxins: environmental contaminants such as pesticides or cleaning solutions.
How can we rebuild and maintain a healthy microbiome for better health?
Lifestyle matters so much. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a known gut irritant. Feeling the pressure? Explore new ways to press the “pause” button on that constant stream of stress: meditation, exercise, music, yoga, a long walk outdoors….
And you can also take steps to support those good gut bacteria—the ones that help keep bad microbes in check. Beneficial bacteria thrive when fed well. Surprise: They require the same fuel for optimal health that you do. You’ll be serving up good meals for your friendly microbe forces just by making smart eating choices yourself!
• Focus on whole, fresh food. Unprocessed foods are naturally high in fiber and nutrients.
• Keep your diet toxin-free. Avoid preservatives, colorings, and flavor enhancers.
• Remove irritants. The most common sources of food intolerance—and the physical stress it causes—include corn, soy, gluten, yeast, and dairy.
• Repopulate your biome. Fermented foods are a “two-fer.” The fermentation process introduces good bacteria and also breaks down the proteins that can make dairy, soy, or gluten hard to digest. Feel free to enjoy kefir, tofu, yogurt, and other fermented foods. Or, look for good quality digestive enzyme or probiotic supplements.
• Heal and protect the gut lining with foods rich in omega-3s and glutamine.
• Avoid sugar. Not only does it stimulate those harmful microbes, it also triggers inflammation and cravings. You don’t need those complications.
One final suggestion to enhance your microbiome, heal your gut, and begin the road to improved health and wellbeing: my 10-day, no fuss, no-juicing required detox. By removing many of the common offenders and adding back a wide range of nutrients, this eating plan puts you on the way to better flora balance, more energy, eliminating habits that no longer serve you, and dropping a few pounds in the process. All the guidelines and helpful tips are there, too.
More good news: It’s my gift to you, no strings attached. To register, click on www.RobertaMittman.com/detox.