Other ways to support your gut microbiome
Last month we put a spotlight on different microbes found in fermented foods and discussed how they supported our gut microbiome. Today, we look at some other ways that you can naturally support a diverse and healthy microbiome.
One way to support our gut microbiome is to eat more fermented foods — adding probiotics directly to our diet. Doing so will help maintain the gut bacteria balance in favour of the “good friends.” These are the bacteria that have a positive impact on our general physical and mental health and wellbeing.
But that’s just part of the journey to better gut and overall health.
This week we’ll take a deeper dive into other ways we can support our gut. By doing so, we maintain our immune system and this — as science is now showing us — has a major impact on our health, both physical and mental.
In short, we need to embrace the good bacteria in our world rather than trying to destroy it through anti-bacterial soaps and antibiotics.
A good analogy is how we treat our farmland in Australia. For over 200 years we’ve deforested, churned up and poisoned the soil through chemicals. This insensitive and heavy-handed approach to subdue Nature has occurred in one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth.
The same can be said of the way we treat our gut microbiome. Promoting bad bacteria due to our poor diet and lifestyle. Killing all bacteria through antibacterial soaps and body cleansers. But there are glimmers of hope! Underpinned by scientific studies, we are now understanding that, in so many ways, trusting Nature is best.
Making sure we consume fermented food and drink is just one part to repair our gut microbiome and maintain our health. Let’s delve into other ways.
Natural birth, breastfeeding and the first few days
Let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. The first contact babies have with the bacteria that will colonise its gut is through the mother. There is mounting evidence to suggest that natural birth (rather than C-section), breastfeeding and good old human contact is the best way to get baby’s gut microbiome off to a flying start. Such close contact “seeds” the young one’s gut microbiome with Mum’s own gut bacteria.
The “quality” of the mother’s gut bacteria is vital. It’s important for pregnant women to have a healthy diet full of probiotics, ready to pass on to the newborn.
The “natural is best” approach to seeding the baby’s gut microbiome also extends to the contact with the mother through breastfeeding and the first days and weeks that the baby spends with her/his Mum.
If you would like to learn more about nutrition, gut health and holistic health during pre-conception, pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, I would reccommend that you check out Shelley McClure's page Pollination Mamas. She is a wealth of information on this connection.
I myself, (Sammi), am a retired doula (birth support), and am passionate about supporting birth and breastfeeding practices that support healthy mums, bubs and guts. While I no longer work as a doula, I DO provide online counselling and support during the pre-natal, pregnancy and post-natal period.
Eat a diverse range of whole foods
What we eat is such an important regulator of our gut health. It’s also one of the most confusing areas to decide on! With all the latest diet trends it can be difficult to work out which is best for us and our family.
But it needn’t be such a problem. By all means do the research on dietary guidelines. It’s important to do so.
By incorporating a range of whole foods in your diet, you ensure the best health results. These are foods that have been processed minimally, unpackaged as much as possible. By consuming more fermented (“live”) foods and sprouted foods such as nuts, you gain more than a range of healthy nutrients. You also support your own good gut bacteria. Fibre-rich foods are vital to feed the good gut bacteria.
Keeping the balance
Marketers have told us over the last few decades that families aren’t safe unless every microbe is eliminated from the home. The idea is to sell us more antibacterial soaps, cleaners, body products, mouthwashes and more. The phrase “kills 99 percent of all known germs” has become one of the slogans of our times! This has also been the way of antibiotics in medicine.
Of course, there are times when antibacterials and antibiotics are important in our society. They have prevented numerous outbreaks of disease and save lives. But they kill all bacteria, good and bad. With overuse antibacterials in the home will damage the good bacteria in our gut, to the detriment of our physical and mental health.
The Great Outdoors
Recent studies have found the more people get outside and walk, have pets, exercise at parks, swim, garden or just sit and meditate, the better for our gut microbiome. It is now understood that the environment in which we live plays an important role in gut health. A key study from the University of East Anglia now shows a link between living more with nature and good gut health. Let your kids make mud pies and play in the dirt! It is good for them!
The more healthy, outdoors exercise, for kids as well as adults, the healthier, happier we’ll be through the proper support of the gut microbiome. Getting our hands dirty also includes the traditional hands-on approach of organic gardening. Theories are also starting to emerge about organic gardening and its positive effect on gut health.
Embracing Nature, rather than trying to eliminate Her, is the way to great health. An important part of maintaining our physical and mental health is to accept bacteria rather than destroy them through anti-bacterial soaps, antibiotics and a high emphasis on processed foods. Supporting the microbiome means giving the “right” bacteria a chance to maintain our immune system and other essential functions of the body and mind.
Yours in vibrant health, Sammi xxx