How to Feed the Microbes that Protect Our Health and Nurture a Healthy Gut Microbiome
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One of the most important factors that determines if we’re healthy is our gut microbiome.
Our gut microbiome is a huge population of microbes that live in and on our body. They consist of trillions of fungi, bacteria, and other microbes, including viruses that attack bacteria.
Why is this group of microbes so important to our health? Because as a group, these guys have a hundred and fifty times more genes than our human genes. And there are ten times more microbes than human cells. In other words, we humans are totally outnumbered by microbes!
These microbes live in every nook and cranny of our body. They are on our skin, in our nose, our mouth, our eyes, our ears, but most of them live inside our gut. There are over one hundred trillion of bacteria cells living in just our gut alone.
A diverse and rich population of these gut bacteria, often called the “good” bacteria, plays a part in programming an effective immune system response.
These gut bacteria feed on fibre as their foods.
So, the more high fibre foods you eat, the more these bacteria can grow, and the healthier your immune system can be.
If these bacteria don’t get enough fibre because you don’t eat enough of it, they will feed on your intestinal lining, causing the lining to leak, which can lead to other health problems.
Ideally, we should have about twenty to thirty thousand species of these good bacteria in our gut. But with the way we eat today, no one has this many. Everyone is walking around with a depleted microbiome.
Fibre is only found in plant foods. Animal products such as meat, eggs and milk, have no fibre at all.
Different plant foods also contain different types and composition of fibre. And different types of fibre feed different types of bacteria. So, the more variety you eat, the better.
Eating small amounts of many different types of plant foods is better than eating a lot of the same foods over and over again.
Your gut bacteria digest the tough plant fibres that you eat. In the process, they produce short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate.
Butyrate works like a wonder drug inside your body. It is extremely effective in fighting off infection and studies show that it even helps in fighting cancer.
Unlike the medicine that you take, the drug that your body produces on its own doesn’t cause you harmful side effects, yet it can effectively target viruses and pathogens that it needs to fight off.
Fiber absorbs water, and together, they bulk up to clean your colon of waste materials. Without enough fiber and water, you can become constipated. These waste materials sit inside your colon for too long and cannot be passed through regularly. And it leads to many other health problems.
Fiber pulls water from your colon, so when you eat more fiber, make sure to also drink more water.
The easiest way to get a lot of fibre is by eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, seeds, whole grains, and all kinds of beans and legumes.
Generally, vegetables contain more fibre than fruits. Fruits are healthy, but vegetables contain more nutrients.
Most vegetables are best consumed raw, because cooking vegetables break down some fibres and nutrients. You can try to increase your intake of raw vegetables by blending them into green smoothies, for example.
But juicing doesn’t give you the same benefits, because with juicing, the fibre is tossed out.
Other foods like chia seeds and psyllium husks are also very high in fibre.
Fermented foods like tempeh and miso are also good sources of healthy bacteria.
Probiotic products and supplements have not been proven to enrich your gut bacteria.
A probiotic product usually contains only a few strains of bacteria, a far cry from the twenty to thirty thousand strains that we need in order to thrive. These same few strains of bacteria are copied into billions of counts into a probiotic product.
Remember, we need to have a very rich and diverse population. Giving your body billions of copies of the same few strains of bacteria actually create a monoculture in your gut, the opposite of what we want to achieve.
The bacteria in probiotic products are often extracted from cow intestines, grown in large batches, and then put into long term cultures where billions of copies of bacteria are then extracted to be added into probiotic products.
No one knows for sure if these bacteria can survive the human stomach acid as they pass through our digestive system. But even if they can, cow bacteria cannot populate the human guts. Humans and cows have very different gut environments, different pH, and different digestive enzymes.
No one knows for sure if the bacteria in these probiotic products are still alive. Probiotic products also often contain dairy ingredients, added sugar, and other additives, which don’t do us much good.
For some people, taking probiotic products can be of benefit. But for most of us, it is best to stick to our diet. The same foods that contain a lot of fiber also contain thousands of micro-nutrients that fight illnesses.
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