By: C.C. Clark
The amount of bacterial cells in your body outnumber the human cells. Yes, you read that correctly -- we are more bacteria than we are human. That means those teeny tiny, single-celled beings can have the ability to make or break our overall health and wellbeing.
So, let's get to know our bacterial cells.
To start, the vast majority of them live in our gut, specifically in a section of the large intestine known as the cecum. Here we find what is called the "gut microbiome," a 2-5 pound collection of bacteria, archaea, and fungi that reside there, full-time. This gut microbiome isn’t merely an aid to digestion; it plays a pivotal role in our immune system, cardiovascular system, ability to avoid certain diseases (e.g., diabetes), and even our brain function. Without the microbiome, it would be very difficult to function on a daily basis.
Babies begin their lives with very simple gut microbiomes. But as we grow -- and are introduced to new foods and environments -- so does the diversity of our microbiome. A diverse microbiome is a healthy one, and one that will keep your mind and body in order. I wanted to make sure that I had a healthy gut microbiome, so I dug into the research and found the best ways to keep things running smoothly. The following is a list of some easy ways to diversify and improve your gut microbiome!
1. Sleep, sleep, sleep
Studies have shown that irregular sleep patterns can result in dysbiosis (a lack of microbial diversity) in the gut, resulting in inflammatory conditions.
2. Introduce probiotics to your system
This can include taking probiotic supplements, or increasing the amount of fermented foods that you eat (think kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kombucha, etc).
3. Eat foods that are high in prebiotics
This includes bananas, artichokes, garlic, onions, chicory, asparagus, whole grains/oats, and apples. Prebiotics are fibers that make the gut a hospitable place for bacteria. They work well alongside probiotics, allowing them to survive changes in pH and temperature. Looking for a good place to start? Look no further than joe'y, which contains prebiotic chicory root fiber!
4. Consume lots of polyphenols
These are plant compounds that help bacteria grow, and they’re in some pretty delicious things like dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, and olive oil. Great news for those of us who aren't ready to go all-in on a probiotic.
5. Limit your consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners
Eating too much of these can also result in dysbiosis. In particular, one artificial sweetener that you should try to avoid at all costs is aspartame. It's linked to several strains of bacteria that can cause metabolic disease, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
6. Only take antibiotics if you have to
While doing so is necessary at times, it inevitably decreases microbial diversity, and it takes awhile for that diversity to be restored.
7. Try out a plant-based diet
Give it a shot! It's known to improve gut health and decrease dysbiosis. In addition, it reduces the amount of E. coli that your gut could be exposed to.