Written by Vera Coetsee, Health and Nutrition Coach
14 August 2023
The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. In recent years, there has been a growing body of research highlighting the importance of a healthy gut microbiome and its impact on various aspects of our physical and mental health.
A healthy gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. The diverse community of microbes in our gut helps break down complex carbohydrates, fibre, and other compounds that our body cannot digest on its own. Furthermore, the gut microbiome plays a vital role in supporting a robust immune system. Approximately 70% to 80% of our immune system resides in the gut, making it a critical interface between our bodies and the external environment. Beyond digestion and immunity, the gut microbiome has also been found to influence our mental health and brain function. The gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters and other chemicals that can affect our mood, cognition, and behaviour.
Improving your gut microbiome is important for your overall health and well-being. Ways to enhance and support a healthy gut microbiome include:
- Eat a diverse and balanced diet – Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet. These foods provide essential nutrients and fibre that support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Consume fermented foods – Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain beneficial bacteria that can help improve your gut microbiome.
- Limit processed and sugary foods – Processed foods and those high in added sugars can negatively impact your gut microbiome. Try to minimise their consumption and opt for whole, unprocessed foods instead.
- Stay hydrated – Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining a healthy gut. It helps with digestion and ensures proper bowel movements, which can support a diverse gut microbiome.
- Manage stress levels – Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut. Engage in stress-reducing activities like exercise, meditation, deep breathing, or hobbies to support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep can negatively impact your gut microbiome, so prioritise a consistent sleep schedule.
- Limit antibiotic use – Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut. If you do need antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic supplement alongside to help replenish beneficial bacteria.
- Exercise regularly – Regular physical activity has been linked to a more diverse gut microbiome. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- Consider probiotic supplements – Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome..
By nurturing our gut microbiome, we can promote better digestion, enhance our immune system, support mental well-being, and potentially reduce the risk of various diseases. Make an appointment at our clinic if you need support in improving your gut microbiome.
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Pham VT, Dold S, Rehman A, Bird JK, Steinert RE. Vitamins, the gut microbiome and gastrointestinal health in humans. Nutr Res. 2021 Nov;95:35-53. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2021.09.001. Epub 2021 Oct 21. PMID: 34798467. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34798467/