The microbiome is so important to our health. Microbes that we live with it that reside in our human body outnumber our cells by at least ten to one. The microbiome is responsible for regulating our metabolism, regulating our blood sugar, influences our detoxification pathways, plays a critical role in our immune system, influences our mental health, affects the health of our skin and many other things. Microbes influence how our carbohydrates/fats/proteins are metabolized as well as our energy production. Having a healthy microbiome increases insulin sensitivity, decreases pro-inflammatory cytokines and increases the production of short chain fatty acids (which has an effect on body weight as well as immune function).
75% of western diets are of limited benefit to the microbiome. Why is this? Most people eat a lot of refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, processed food) which are absorbed in the upper intestines (small) and never reach the lower intestine (large) or what reaches the large intestine is of limited value. Refined carbohydrates, processed food and sugar feed bad bacteria and contribute to the growing population of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). A fiber rich diet is needed to enhance the microbiome and make it healthy, specifically prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are food for the microbiome. Examples of prebiotics are oligosaccharides such as fructooligosaccharides, inulin, galactooligosaccharides, and pectin derived oligosaccharides (fruit like apples, cherries, pears). Foods that contain prebiotics include artichokes, green tea, onions, apples, red wine, cabbage, legumes, leeks and broccoli (plus many others). Soluble fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria such as lactobacillus species and bifidum species and these in turn keep the colon healthy.
Prebiotics improve mineral absorption from the intestine, improve bowel function, increase insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation, stimulate neurochemical production in the gut such as neurotransmitters and support integrity in the gastrointestinal tract
Probiotics are ingested microorganisms which benefit the human host. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods like kefir (coconut kefir if you have a dairy allergy), goat’s milk kefir, raw sauerkraut, miso soup (can contain 160 or more bacterial strains), kimchee, kombucha, sourdough bread, olives, and aged cheese. Even honey and fermented black tea can contain beneficial microorganisms.
Fermented foods make food more digestible, activate polyphenols (which increase vitamins, enzyme activation, amino acid production), break down phytates and tannins and many other jobs that contribute to overall better health. The question I have for you is how are you supporting your microbiome today?
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References: Modulating the Microbiome with Food. Seroyal webinar-Dr. Liz Lipski, PhD, CNS, CCN, CHN, CFM, LDN . Please watch the webinar to see the journal references.