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Nurturing your Microbiome

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome refers to the diverse range of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses that reside primarily in our gastrointestinal tract but also inhabit other parts of the body such as the skin, mouth, and reproductive organs. These tiny inhabitants outnumber our human cells by about ten to one, comprising a complex and highly organised ecosystem.

The Role of the Microbiome

The microbiome plays many roles in maintaining our health:

  • Digestion and Nutrient Absorption: Certain bacteria in the gut help break down dietary fibre and other complex carbohydrates that our bodies cannot digest on their own, releasing essential nutrients in the process.

  • Immune System Regulation: The microbiome interacts closely with our immune system, helping to train it to recognise and combat pathogens while preventing inappropriate immune responses that can lead to allergies and autoimmune disorders.

  • Synthesis of Vitamins and Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Some bacteria in the gut produce vitamins like B and K, which are vital for various bodily functions. Additionally, they generate short-chain fatty acids, which play a role in gut health and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Brain-Gut Communication: Emerging research suggests that the gut microbiome communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis, influencing mood, cognition, and behaviour. This connection highlights the profound impact of gut health on mental well-being.

  • Metabolism and Weight Regulation: Gut bacteria influence metabolism and may impact weight management. Imbalances in the microbiome have been linked to obesity.


Supporting Your Microbiome

  • Eat a Diverse Range of Foods: A varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fermented foods provides an array of nutrients and fibres that promote microbial diversity in the gut. In 2018, results from the American Gut Project, found that eating 30 different plant foods each week was associated with a healthier and more diverse microbiome.

  • Include Fermented Foods: Incorporating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha introduces beneficial probiotic bacteria into the gut, enhancing microbial balance.

  • Limit Intake of Ultra-Processed Foods: High consumption of ultra-processed foods, laden with refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives, can disrupt the microbiome and contribute to inflammation and metabolic disturbances.

  • Prebiotics: Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres found in certain foods like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and bananas. They serve as fuel for beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting their growth and activity.

  • Consider Probiotic Supplements: In some cases, especially after antibiotic treatment or for individuals with specific health conditions, probiotic supplements may help restore microbial balance. However, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalised recommendations.

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