The microbiome is a leading topic of interest among health practitioners and researchers today and not without good reason. Imbalances in the microbiome have been linked to a wide range of conditions from allergies to depression to Type 2 diabetes. And so maintaining a healthy microbiome has become a major focus point for reducing the presence and severity of a wide variety of conditions. Today’s blog covers some easy and simple tips to ensure a thriving microbiome.

1) Diet

When we regularly eat a variety of healthy, fibre rich, non-processed foods, our microbiome becomes programmed to work for us. And a more varied diet equals a more flexible and diverse microbiome.

Alternatively, when we consume foods that we are reactive to there can be damage to the intestinal lining. The intestinal lining is meant to be a strong barrier between our gut and the rest of our body. When the intestinal wall is damaged, food particles can enter the bloodstream, causing our immune system to attack them, and ultimately our own tissues. This leads to inflammation and a whole cascade of conditions, including autoimmunity.

When we consume raw, organic fruits and plant foods, we acquire a dose of prebiotics, simple carbohydrates, micronutrients, and phytochemicals. Additionally, we ingest food-borne microorganisms, some of which may take up residence in our gut and/or transfer genes to bacteria living in gut biofilms, therefore potentially increasing the biodiversity of our gut microbiota.

Fermented vegetables help to increase the biodiversity of our microbiota. For example sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir, yogurt (not processed) and kombucha. These probiotic foods are a rich source of healthy bacteria which can colonise our gut and transfer genetic material to microbes that are already established in our intestine.

Prebiotics include types of dietary fibres found in foods like legumes, onions, cabbage, garlic, asparagus, oats, barley and beans. Prebiotics are what fuels the bacteria and creates the environment they thrive in.

2) Adapt a new diet gradually

An inconsistent diet can wreak havoc on the gut microbiota. The gut microbiome needs time to properly adapt to new foods and so it is better to gradually change our diet by the seasons, than to change it day-by-day.
Restoring a normal balance of microorganisms in the GI tract involves making dietary changes that encourage healthy microflora within the digestive tract, eliminating harmful organisms and allergenic foods, and rebuilding the gut barrier and digestive functions.

3) Limit conventional medications and bodycare products that negatively impact the microbiome

Antibiotics damage the cell membranes of gut microbiota cells, disrupt the normal, protective flora and can also allow for the colonisation of pathogens. Antibiotics decrease microbial diversity in the gut promoting a range of adverse health effects. If antibiotics are required, it is important to take steps to rebuild the microbiota after the antibiotic treatment is completed. Many other pharmaceutical drugs elicit similar effects.

Antibacterial lotions/hand sanitizers and excessive use of liquid soaps or body washes can decrease the microbial diversity of the skin microbiota and may impair the skin’s protective barrier, decreasing our exposure to beneficial microorganisms.

4) Increase time spent in nature

By walking in a park, gardening, or simply spending more time in natural environments exposes us to a range of microorganisms. Matter in the air such as pollen carries a load of bacteria. Many airborne particles will therefore be deposited in the upper airways, so that after being carried up the trachea by the action of cilia, they will be swallowed. Therefore, airborne microorganisms end up on the skin, in the airways, and in the gut where they modulate the immune system.

5) Improve the microbiome of your home

Traditionally, homes were constructed with timber, mud, animal dung, thatch, and other natural products and were ventilated by outside air. By contrast, modern buildings are constructed with synthetic materials, plastics, and concrete, and the timber is treated with adhesives and biocides, while the buildings are ventilated by air conditioning systems.

When these modern structures degrade, become damp, or accumulate condensation in cavity walls, they become habitats for unusual strains some of which synthesise toxic molecules that we are unable to inactivate, i.e. toxic mould.

Chronic exposure to mould-produced mycotoxins can result in a range of health problems, including chronic fatigue, depression, brain fog, sugar cravings, low libido, and muscle weakness.

Some ways to improve our home’s microbiome is to place plants around the house, replace harsh cleaning products with natural alternatives, and regularly open windows to bring natural light and fresh air into the building.

6) Manage stress levels

It’s well established in the scientific literature that the bacteria in our gut affect our brain function, stress levels, and behaviour. Conversely, human studies have shown that ongoing chronic stress can disrupt the microbiota, triggering unfavourable shifts in bacterial composition and diversity which can further affect gut motility, epithelial barrier function, and inflammatory states.

Our gut is our second brain. If the microbiome is out of balance, we may feel anxious, depressed, tired and suffer from memory problems or brain fog. In addition to eating the right foods, it is important to remove stressors before eating and be relaxed.

7) Exercise in moderate amounts

Human studies have suggested that exercise seems to have positive effects on the microbiome, as long as it’s not excessive.

A balanced training routine that consists of regular strength training, plenty of low-moderate intensity activities (e.g. walking), contributes to a healthy microbiome.

Extreme forms of training, on the other hand, can have detrimental effects on health. Prolonged, high-intensity endurance training may induce leaky gut and gastrointestinal distress in many people.

Overall, following these tips ensures an easy way to maintain a healthy microbiome. Want to learn more about the Microbiome? Read about it here in Microbiome 101.

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