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The Gut Microbiome And Its Effect On Our Health

Published January 20, 2019 (Revised: December 20, 2019) Read Time: 13 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

Fact-Checked By: Ana Reisdorf MS, RD

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/12/gut-microbiome-thumbnail-0054.jpg" } }, "headline":"The Gut Microbiome And Its Affect On Our Health", "datePublished":"2019-01-20", "dateModified": "2019-12-20", "description":"The health of your gut microbes can influence everything from your brain health to your ability to lose weight. Here’s why you should treat your microbes well.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/12/gut-microbiome-thumbnail-0054.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What Is the Gut Microbiome?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "As previously mentioned a microbe is a single cell microorganism such as bacteria or yeast. The majority of these are found in the digestive tract.<br>The collection of bacteria found in the body is called the microbiome. Although microbes are found in every part of the body, the majority are in the digestive system, collectively known as the gut microbiome.<br>There are so many microbes in the human body; there is actually 100x more microbe DNA in the body than human DNA. The number of microbes found on one human body is greater than the total number of humans that have ever lived. That is a lot of microbes!<br>Although there are over 70 different phyla of microbes that have been identified in the human microbiome, about 90% belong to one of two general groups- Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes.<br>There are many different species within these two classifications. Most adults have around 500 species in their colon alone, with other species living in the mouth, stomach, or small intestine." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect Our Health?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The research in the area of how the microbiome impacts our health is only beginning.<br>What science has found is that our microbiomes and our bodies have complex relationships. It is a challenge to study because every human on the planet has a completely unique microbiome. Researchers are trying to find common strains that are connected to certain health outcomes.<br>We do know that the microbiome can influence digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system response.<br>It can play a role in the development of many illnesses such as autoimmune disease, heart disease, and diabetes.<br>It is also understood that the healthiest microbiomes are the most diverse with the right balance of bacterial phyla. A lack of diversity or a bacterial imbalance, called dysbiosis, can lead to multiple health problems." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "An imbalance of bacteria in the gut or low bacterial diversity can cause many symptoms, some that seem completely unrelated to the digestive system.<br>Since these symptoms can show up in any area of the body, many people don’t identify their health problems with an unhealthy gut microbiome.<br>If you experience any of these common symptoms you may have an unhealthy gut:<br>Digestive problems. Gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea may all be signs of gut bacteria imbalance. A diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease is also related to dysbiosis.<br>Weight loss or gain. The composition of the microbiome has been implicated in both obesity and malnutrition An imbalance of gut microbes may lead to difficulty tolerating certain foods or an inability to absorb calories and nutrients from food. This can cause weight loss or lead to nutrient deficiencies, while other bacteria can increase calorie absorption or trigger inflammation, leading to weight gain.<br>Inflammation. Since the immune system starts in the gut, if the gut is inflamed due to dysbiosis, the rest of the body may also show signs of inflammation. Microbes in the gut are able to activate the inflammatory response throughout the entire body. Symptoms of inflammation may include joint pain, brain fog, and fatigue.<br>Constant fatigue. The combination of the inability to absorb nutrients properly, poor digestion, and inflammation can all cause fatigue and exhaustion. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been linked to decreased bacterial diversity. The gut microbiome can also disrupt your circadian rhythm, preventing you from getting the rest you need.<br>Skin problems. The alteration of the immune response caused by imbalances in the microbiome can lead to skin problems, such as eczema or acne. Improving gut health can reduce symptoms of various skin conditions. <br>Autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by high levels of inflammation. An imbalanced gut may trigger the immune system to overreact, increasing systemic inflammation, increasing risk of autoimmunity.<br>Food intolerances. Gut dysbiosis can show up as difficulty tolerating certain foods, particularly those that contain fermentable sugars called FODMAPs, found in many fruits and vegetables. Symptoms may include bloating, nausea, heartburn, or abdominal pain after eating." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How Can I Improve My Gut Microbiome?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "If you have any of the symptoms discussed above, you may need to work on improving the health of your microbiome. <br>Your diet is one obvious place to start, but there are many other lifestyle factors that can contribute to poor gut health. <br>Here are a few ways to improve your health and the health of the microbiome:<br>Control your stress. Uncontrolled stress negatively impacts your health in every way, including the microbiome. Stress causes your gut bacteria to produce inflammatory fats and shifts the function of brain hormones that are made in the gut.<br>Sleep. Alterations in the microbiome have been linked to insomnia and circadian rhythm disturbances. It is unclear if poor sleep is the cause of the dysbiosis or if dysbiosis triggers alterations in the sleep-wake cycles. Regardless, it is critical to get adequate sleep to support your health and the health of your gut. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.<br>Use antibiotics only if necessary. Although antibiotics are sometimes absolutely necessary and life-saving, excessive use of these medications can have a negative impact on gut bacteria. These useful medications tend to kill off both bad and helpful microbes. If you think you need antibiotics, always speak to your doctor about the best treatment method for you, including a plan to protect/recover your microbiome.<br>Eat a varied diet. A varied diet exposes you to different nutrients which may promote bacterial diversity in the gut.<br>Cut back on sugar. A diet high in sugar may feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut, leading to imbalance. For a healthy gut, it is best to reduce your intake of processed sugar.<br>Eliminate processed foods. Many processed foods are loaded with sugar or artificial ingredients that can impact gut health. Therefore, it is best to eat unprocessed whole foods, which support a healthy digestive system.<br>Limit artificial sweeteners. Certain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, may stimulate the growth of unhealthy bacteria. Stick with natural options for sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit.<br>Eat foods high in fiber. Fiber is a microbes’ prefered food source. Inadequate fiber starves healthy bacteria, allowing unhealthy bacteria to take over. Aim to eat at least 25-35 grams a day from vegetables and fruits.<br>Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut all contain healthy bacteria, particularly Lactobacilli that can increase the number of good microbes in the gut.<br>Spend time outdoors. Spending time outside helps increase bacterial diversity by exposing you to new microbial strains. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and enjoy time in nature, it’s good for your gut.<br>Have a pet. Having a pet in the house increases bacterial diversity in the gut and has been found to decrease the risk of allergies in infants.<br>Don’t excessively sanitize everything. Overuse of antibacterial products may kill off beneficial bacteria in addition to harmful microbes. To prevent the spread of illness, wash your hands regularly with normal soap. No need to use extra-strength antibacterial soap or sanitizers. <br>Breastfeed your baby, if possible. This obviously only applies to infants and mamas, but breastfeeding is one of the best ways to support the development of your baby’s microbiome.<br>Take a probiotic. A probiotic contains live healthy bacteria that can help restore balance to an unhealthy gut.<br>Eat more plants. Vegetarian or vegan diets have been found to significantly improve bacterial diversity. You don’t need to go completely meat-free to enjoy the benefits, as increasing your vegetable intake can also do the trick." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Which Foods Support the Microbiome?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "To get a little more specific about foods that support the microbiome, here is a list of must-haves in your diet for optimal gut health:<br>Yogurt with live bacterial cultures. Choose plain yogurt with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Add nuts or a few berries for flavor. <br>Sauerkraut. Make sure to choose real fermented sauerkraut with live cultures. Kimchi, the Korean-version of fermented cabbage, is also a good option. <br>Miso. Made from fermented soy beans, miso is a healthy fermented food typically found in Japanese soups and stews. <br>Kefir. A sour-tasting fermented beverage, kefir is an incredible source of probiotics. Usually kefir is found in milk-based recipes, but water kefir is also available for those who may be allergic to milk.<br>Artichokes. Foods like artichokes, apples, bananas, and asparagus are rich in prebiotics, the type of fiber that feeds good bacteria.<br>Green tea. Foods rich in polyphenols, such as green tea, red wine, and olive oil help stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is the Gut Microbiome?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Development of the Gut Microbiome</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect Our Health?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What Are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">How Can I Improve My Gut Microbiome?</a></li> <li><a href="#section6">Which Foods Support the Microbiome?</a></li> <li><a href="#section7">Supporting Your Gut Health</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Did you know that up to 5 pounds of your body weight is made up of tiny one-cell organisms called microbes? On your body, there are billions of microbes that go everywhere you go. These microbes aren’t just along for the ride. They actually have a <i>huge</i> impact on your health.</p> <p>Due to the importance of these little bacteria that live on and in our bodies, the National Institute of Health started the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.hmpdacc.org/overview/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Human Microbiome Project</a> in 2007. This project was a way to document and learn about the variety of microbes found in the human body. Since then, interest in the microbiome and its impact on health has skyrocketed.</p> <p>There are between 10 and 100 trillion microbes in our bodies with the majority of these living in our digestive tract<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22861806" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>. </p> <p>Emerging research is beginning to understand the impact that the gut microbiome has on the development of a variety of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease to mental health. </p> <p>Although there is a lot to be learned about the microbiome, research has identified a clear relationship between our gut bacteria and our overall health.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What Is the Gut Microbiome?</h2> <p>As previously mentioned a microbe is a single cell microorganism such as bacteria or yeast. The majority of these are found in the digestive tract. </p> <p>The collection of bacteria found in the body is called the microbiome. Although microbes are found in every part of the body, the majority are in the digestive system, collectively known as the gut microbiome<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5072314/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>.</p> <p>There are so many microbes in the human body; there is actually 100x more microbe DNA in the body than human DNA. The number of microbes found on one human body is greater than the total number of humans that have ever lived<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16741115" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>. That is a lot of microbes!</p> <p>Although there are over 70 different phyla of microbes that have been identified in the human microbiome, about 90% belong to one of two general groups- <i>Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes</i><sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15831718" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup>. </p> <p>There are many different species within these two classifications. Most adults have around 500 species in their colon alone, with other species living in the mouth, stomach, or small intestine<sup><a target="_blank" href="http://www.cmcwtrl.in/publications/10-2007-Journal-of-Cinical-Gastroenterology.pdf" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-connection-0054.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-connection-0054.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-connection-0054.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-connection-LR-0054.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="gut brain connection"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Development of the Gut Microbiome</h2> <p>Even before we are born, microbes are already part of our lives. </p> <p>Bacteria begin to enter the body during pregnancy. </p> <p>People used to believe the womb was a sterile environment. But recent research found that the mother’s microbiome can start to influence the fetus before it has been born<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028215019652" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>. </p> <p>The microbiome is further developed during the first year of life by:</p> <ul> <li>Type of birth (c-section or vagnial) </li> <li>How long the fetus is in the womb</li> <li>Feeding choices, such as breastfeeding or formula</li> <li>Mom’s nutritional status</li> <li>The type and timing of solid foods introduction<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25974306" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>The microbiome is fully developed by age three and will maintain an overall similar composition throughout life.</p> <p>Due to all these variables that happen in the early years of life, every individual’s microbiome is unique. But, families, particularly those who live together, tend to have similar microbiomes. This is no surprise because a family likely shares the same physical space and diet. Pet ownership also increases the similarity and diversity of the family’s microbiome<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://elifesciences.org/articles/00458" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>. </p> <p>Although the microbiome develops its general composition early in life and remains fairly consistent, it can change based on different lifestyle factors as it is a living organism.</p> <p>It can be influenced by diet, antibiotics, stress, and illness. The changes experienced by the microbiome can also impact our overall health.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect Our Health?</h2> <p>The research in the area of how the microbiome impacts our health is only beginning. </p> <p>What science has found is that our microbiomes and our bodies have complex relationships. It is a challenge to study because every human on the planet has a completely unique microbiome. Researchers are trying to find common strains that are connected to certain health outcomes.</p> <p>We do know that the microbiome can influence digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system response. </p> <p>It can play a role in the development of many illnesses such as autoimmune disease, heart disease, and diabetes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123067" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.</p> <p>It is also understood that the healthiest microbiomes are the most diverse with the right balance of bacterial phyla. A lack of diversity or a bacterial imbalance, called dysbiosis, can lead to multiple health problems<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20668239" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup>.</p> <p>Here are a few of the ways that the microbiome can impact your health:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Immune system function</strong>. The microbes in the gut communicate directly with the immune system. This means they can control when and how your body responds to harmful bacteria and viruses<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27231050" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Promotes brain health</strong>. The gut, and the microbes that live inside the gut, are directly linked to the brain via the gut-brain axis, part of the nervous system. Gut bacteria may actually be able to control our behavior via this connection. Research has found that microbes may play a role in mental health disorders, such as depression. They are able to produce and regulate certain brain chemicals related to mood<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22968153" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25078296" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Impacts digestive health</strong>. The health of your gut bacteria can directly influence your digestion. Bloating, gas, and stomach pain can all be triggered by an imbalance of gut bacteria. Unhealthy bacteria tend to ferment certain foods releasing gas and causing pain. They can also trigger inflammation in the gut, leading to diarrhea or constipation. When the bacterial imbalance becomes more severe, this can lead to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202342/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523847/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Nutritional status</strong>. The microbiome impacts the body’s ability to extract and utilize vitamins and minerals from food. Without bacteria there would be some critical nutrients, we would be unable to extract from food, such as certain important fats. It would also lead to vitamin deficiencies due to an inability to create vitamins from the food-materials we eat, such as vitamin K2<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17515922" rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Weight gain</strong>. There are several theories behind why bacterial imbalance may be linked to obesity, although this remains poorly understood. A few of the theories include excessive calories created by certain gut bacteria, inflammation, or an ability of microbes to activate obesity-related genes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24621052" rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Promotes heart health</strong>. The microbiome may play a role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, by improving HDL and triglycerides<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26358192" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a></sup>. Certain unhealthy bacterial species, if allowed to take over, may increase the production of a compound called TMAO. This compound contributes to blocked arteries, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3086762/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">19</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Helps regulate blood sugar</strong>. A 2015 study found that bacteria diversity dropped suddenly before the onset of type 1 diabetes in infants<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25662751" rel="nofollow noreferrer">20</a></sup>. Dysbiosis may also play a role in insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0098299712001288" rel="nofollow noreferrer">21</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Autoimmune disease</strong>. Certain gut bacteria can trigger autoimmune disease by moving out of the gut and into other areas of the body, setting off an inflammatory immune response. This can lead to the development of illnesses such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1156" rel="nofollow noreferrer">22</a></sup>. </li> </ul> <p>As science continues to identify the influence of the gut microbiome on our health, there will certainly be even more diseases related to low bacterial diversity or imbalances.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-bacteria-diagram-0054.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-bacteria-diagram-0054.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-bacteria-diagram-0054.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-bacteria-diagram-LR-0054.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="gut bacteria diagram"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>What Are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?</h2> <p>An imbalance of bacteria in the gut or low bacterial diversity can cause many symptoms, some that seem completely unrelated to the digestive system. </p> <p>Since these symptoms can show up in any area of the body, many people don’t identify their health problems with an unhealthy gut microbiome. </p> <p>If you experience any of these common symptoms you may have an unhealthy gut:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Digestive problems</strong>. Gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea may all be signs of gut bacteria imbalance. A diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease is also related to dysbiosis<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrgastro.2014.40" rel="nofollow noreferrer">23</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Weight loss or gain</strong>. The composition of the microbiome has been implicated in both obesity and malnutrition<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0882401015302126" rel="nofollow noreferrer">24</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/article-abstract/1676483" rel="nofollow noreferrer">25</a></sup>. An imbalance of gut microbes may lead to difficulty tolerating certain foods or an inability to absorb calories and nutrients from food. This can cause weight loss or lead to nutrient deficiencies, while other bacteria can increase calorie absorption or trigger inflammation, leading to weight gain.</li> <li><strong>Inflammation</strong>. Since the immune system starts in the gut, if the gut is inflamed due to dysbiosis, the rest of the body may also show signs of inflammation. Microbes in the gut are able to activate the inflammatory response throughout the entire body<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867416314039" rel="nofollow noreferrer">26</a></sup>. Symptoms of inflammation may include joint pain, brain fog, and fatigue.</li> <li><strong>Constant fatigue</strong>. The combination of the inability to absorb nutrients properly, poor digestion, and inflammation can all cause fatigue and exhaustion. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been linked to decreased bacterial diversity<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-016-0171-4" rel="nofollow noreferrer">27</a></sup>. The gut microbiome can also disrupt your circadian rhythm, preventing you from getting the rest you need<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27793218" rel="nofollow noreferrer">28</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Skin problems</strong>. The alteration of the immune response caused by imbalances in the microbiome can lead to skin problems, such as eczema or acne<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021588/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">29</a></sup>. Improving gut health can reduce symptoms of various skin conditions.</li> <li><strong>Autoimmune disease</strong>. Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by high levels of inflammation. An imbalanced gut may trigger the immune system to overreact, increasing systemic inflammation, increasing risk of autoimmunity<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">30</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Food intolerances</strong>. Gut dysbiosis can show up as difficulty tolerating certain foods, particularly those that contain fermentable sugars called FODMAPs, found in many fruits and vegetables. Symptoms may include bloating, nausea, heartburn, or abdominal pain after eating<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.13286" rel="nofollow noreferrer">31</a></sup>. </li> </ul> <p>It’s clear that the symptoms of an unhealthy gut can vary greatly and are not all located in the digestive system. </p> <p>Research is proving that it is critically important to understand how all of these symptoms may have other underlying causes and require more complex treatment. </p> <p>Therefore, it is important to speak to a doctor about your symptoms and how best to treat them. But, if you suffer any of the symptoms listed above, improving the health of your gut microbiome is a good place to start helping you feel better overall.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/probiotic-food-display-0054.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/probiotic-food-display-0054.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/probiotic-food-display-0054.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/probiotic-food-display-LR-0054.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="probiotic food display"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>How Can I Improve My Gut Microbiome?</h2> <p>If you have any of the symptoms discussed above, you may need to work on improving the health of your microbiome. </p> <p>Your diet is one obvious place to start, but there are many other lifestyle factors that can contribute to poor gut health. </p> <p>Here are a few ways to improve your health and the health of the microbiome:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Control your stress</strong>. Uncontrolled stress negatively impacts your health in every way, including the microbiome. Stress causes your gut bacteria to produce inflammatory fats and shifts the function of brain hormones that are made in the gut<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aadil_Bharwani/publication/283012947_Structural_functional_consequences_of_chronic_psychosocial_stress_on_the_microbiome_host/links/56516c6e08ae1ef92972582a/Structural-functional-consequences-of-chronic-psychosocial-stress-on-the-microbiome-host.pdf" rel="nofollow noreferrer">32</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Sleep</strong>. Alterations in the microbiome have been linked to insomnia and circadian rhythm disturbances. It is unclear if poor sleep is the cause of the dysbiosis or if dysbiosis triggers alterations in the sleep-wake cycles<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6290721/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">33</a></sup>. Regardless, it is critical to get <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-going-keto-can-improve-your-sleep-quality/" rel="noreferrer">adequate sleep</a> to support your health and the health of your gut. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.</li> <li><strong>Use antibiotics only if necessary</strong>. Although antibiotics are sometimes absolutely necessary and life-saving, excessive use of these medications can have a negative impact on gut bacteria. These useful medications tend to kill off both bad and helpful microbes. If you think you need antibiotics, always speak to your doctor about the best treatment method for you, including a plan to protect/recover your microbiome<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://genomemedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13073-016-0294-z" rel="nofollow noreferrer">34</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Eat a varied diet</strong>. A varied diet exposes you to different nutrients which may promote bacterial diversity in the gut<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27110483" rel="nofollow noreferrer">35</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Cut back on sugar</strong>. A diet high in sugar may feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut, leading to imbalance<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/1/20/4669738" rel="nofollow noreferrer">36</a></sup>. For a healthy gut, it is best to reduce your intake of processed sugar.</li> <li><strong>Eliminate processed foods</strong>. Many processed foods are loaded with sugar or artificial ingredients that can impact gut health. Therefore, it is best to eat unprocessed whole foods, which support a healthy digestive system.</li> <li><strong>Limit artificial sweeteners</strong>. Certain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, may stimulate the growth of unhealthy bacteria<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25313461" rel="nofollow noreferrer">37</a></sup>. Stick with <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-sweeteners-which-ones-to-use-which-to-avoid/#section5" rel="noreferrer">natural options for sweeteners</a>, such as stevia or monk fruit.</li> <li><strong>Eat foods high in fiber</strong>. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-fiber-foods-5-fiber-rich-foods-to-add/" rel="noreferrer">Fiber</a> is a microbes’ prefered food source. Inadequate fiber starves healthy bacteria, allowing unhealthy bacteria to take over<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">38</a></sup>. Aim to eat at least 25-35 grams a day from vegetables and fruits.</li> <li><strong>Eat fermented foods</strong>. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fermented-foods-for-gut-health/" rel="noreferrer">Fermented foods</a> such as yogurt, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/kombucha-keto-to-drink-or-not-to-drink/" rel="noreferrer">kombucha</a>, and sauerkraut all contain healthy bacteria, particularly <i>Lactobacilli</i> that can increase the number of good microbes in the gut<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17217568" rel="nofollow noreferrer">39</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Spend time outdoors</strong>. Spending time outside helps increase bacterial diversity by exposing you to new microbial strains. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and enjoy time in nature, it’s good for your gut<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5635058/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">40</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Have a pet</strong>. Having a pet in the house increases bacterial diversity in the gut and has been found to decrease the risk of allergies in infants<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201307-218MG" rel="nofollow noreferrer">41</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Don’t excessively sanitize everything</strong>. Overuse of antibacterial products may kill off beneficial bacteria in addition to harmful microbes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30453815" rel="nofollow noreferrer">42</a></sup>. To prevent the spread of illness, wash your hands regularly with normal soap. No need to use extra-strength antibacterial soap or sanitizers.</li> <li><strong>Breastfeed your baby, if possible</strong>. This obviously only applies to infants and mamas, but breastfeeding is one of the best ways to support the development of your baby’s microbiome<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22606315" rel="nofollow noreferrer">43</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Take a probiotic</strong>. A <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-probiotics/" rel="noreferrer">probiotic</a> contains live healthy bacteria that can help restore balance to an unhealthy gut<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25157183" rel="nofollow noreferrer">44</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Eat more plants</strong>. Vegetarian or vegan diets have been found to significantly improve bacterial diversity<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2011141" rel="nofollow noreferrer">45</a></sup>. You don’t need to go completely meat-free to enjoy the benefits, as increasing your vegetable intake can also do the trick.</li> </ol> <p>As you can see there is a lot you can do, in addition to changing your diet, to improve the health of your microbiome.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section6"> <h2>Which Foods Support the Microbiome?</h2> <p>To get a little more specific about foods that support the microbiome, here is a list of must-haves in your diet for optimal gut health:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Yogurt</strong> with live bacterial cultures. Choose plain yogurt with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Add nuts or a few berries for flavor. <li><strong>Sauerkraut</strong>. Make sure to choose real fermented sauerkraut with live cultures. Kimchi, the Korean-version of fermented cabbage, is also a good option. <li><strong>Miso</strong>. Made from fermented soy beans, miso is a healthy fermented food typically found in Japanese soups and stews. <li><strong>Kefir</strong>. A sour-tasting fermented beverage, kefir is an incredible source of probiotics. Usually kefir is found in milk-based recipes, but water kefir is also available for those who may be allergic to milk. <li><strong>Artichokes</strong>. Foods like artichokes, apples, bananas, and asparagus are rich in prebiotics, the type of fiber that feeds good bacteria<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30453815" rel="nofollow noreferrer">46</a></sup>. <li><strong>Green tea</strong>. Foods rich in polyphenols, such as green tea, red wine, and olive oil help stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23849454" rel="nofollow noreferrer">47</a></sup> </ul> <p>The gut thrives on foods right in fiber, probiotics, and polyphenols. A plant-rich diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables (with a few fermented foods thrown in) is the optimal way to support your gut health.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-image-0054.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-image-0054.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-image-0054.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/gut-brain-image-LR-0054.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="gut brain image"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section7"> <h2>Supporting Your Gut Health</h2> <p>The collection of microbes on your body should be seen as an active, living, breathing organism that acts almost as an additional organ throughout your body. Sometimes gut bacteria can get out of balance for various reasons, causing multiple health problems. If you are struggling with gut problems, it is important to work with a trained professional to help identify the triggers and get you back into balance. </p> <p>Supporting the well-being of your single-celled friends with a balanced lifestyle—including a fiber-rich diet, stress management, and adequate sleep—can help you stay healthy as well. The gut microbiome impacts all areas of your health and how you feel. Therefore, you’ll want to keep your microbes happy, healthy, and thriving.</p> </section> </article>

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