Do you eat germs? Yes, you do. Lots of them. So, why aren’t you sick? Because your immune system fights them off and keeps you healthy. And many germs are actually healthy. These bacteria, yeasts, and viruses — of which there are around 100 trillion, up to 5 pounds in a healthy adult. These germs are also called the “gut microbiome” or “gut flora.” Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health and immunity. Seventy percent of the immune system lives in the gut.
So, what is the cause of sickness? Is it the presence of germs? Not really. You can get sick when you don’t have enough healthy germs. To stay healthy there are a number of things you can do to help your gut health and your immune system.
Eat Fermented Foods
I just watched a segment on 60 Minutes talking about Probiotics. The doctors and researchers all talked about how important probiotics are to us to help maintain health. The microbiome is involved in numerous physiological functions, directly and indirectly, involved in maintaining good health. They help us digest our food. This is well agreed upon by science. They are linking Diabetes to an inadequate microbiome. What they did NOT find was any significant benefit from taking probiotics in supplements or added to foods, like yogurt or baby formula.
People who took probiotics after they have had antibiotics did not seem to benefit in any measurable way. In fact, their microbiome was generally less diverse and robust. They have not done studies on any long-term consequences. So, it appears that we must get our healthy flora from food. They did find that a combination of chickpeas, bananas, and peanut butter seemed to improve the microbiome.
Conclusion: It seems that it’s best if we get our probiotics from foods and pass on the supplements and probiotics that are added to foods. The researchers did not comment on the benefits of eating fermented foods, so I’m going to eat them, along with lots of other vegetables! They’re good for everything, including feeding our microbiome.
Eat Prebiotic Fiber
Probiotics feed on nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics. This is how you feed the healthy bacteria and help them multiply. Prebiotic-rich foods include asparagus, apples, bananas, leeks, onions, garlic, whole grains, jicama, and flaxseeds. The more your diet is plant-based, the healthier your gut.
Eat Less Sugar and Sweeteners
Eating a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes. The standard Western diet, which is high in sugar and fat, negatively affects the gut microbiome. In turn, this can influence the brain and behavior. There are indications that the artificial sweetener aspartame increases the number of some bacterial strains that are linked with diabetes and heart disease as they negatively impact blood sugar
Reduce Stress and Get Enough Sleep
Studies show that psychological and environmental stress can negatively affect gut health. And lack of sleep disrupts the circadian rhythm. Some stress management techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, talk to me. I can help.
Avoid Taking Antibiotics Unnecessarily
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors in the United States prescribe around 30% of antibiotics unnecessarily. Antibiotics are damaging to the gut microbiome and immunity, with some research reporting that even 6 months after their use, the gut still lacks important beneficial bacteria. There is also great concern that antibiotic overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Regular exercise contributes to good heart health, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Research has also suggested that it may also improve gut health, by increasing species diversity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week.
Use Safe Cleaning Products
Disinfectants can reduce the variety and amount of healthy organisms in your gut. Use soap and water whenever possible.
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