The Gut Microbiome – also known as Your Second Brain
Our microbiome is the 90 trillion or so bacteria, fungi, viruses etc. which live in and on us. It sounds like a lot and it is a lot; in fact about 90% of the human body cells are in the microbiome. Bacterial cells tend to be a lot smaller than our own so you don’t need to get too worried about it! Most of these cells hang out in the gut and they make up the gut microbiome.
When the gut microbiome is happy and healthy they help us do an awful lot of things:
- We sleep better
- Break down our food for us so we digest food well
- Work to reduce aches and pains
- Manage our weight
- Help us beat food cravings
- Boost our immunity
- Help us feel younger and happier
- Balance our hormones
- Perform better
- Reduce the time needed to recover from exertion
- Give us more energy!
The gut microbiome is also known as the second brain because the gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve and over 90% of your serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is the feel good hormone when it gets up to the brain.
Melatonin is also made in the gut. Melatonin helps you get a good night’s sleep.
Vitamin K and the B vitamins are also synthesized in the gut.
So your gut microbiome is pretty important!
Unfortunately, few people have really happy gut microbiomes because of our modern, Western, diet and lifestyle choices.
The microbiome depends completely on the foods you eat. They love fibre and can digest it well. We don’t love fibre and over the past 60 years or so our diets have become much more dependent on manufactured foods. We now eat a lot of high carb, high sugar foods. This means a lot of calories empty of nutrients.
We like alcohol and as a society have taken to relaxing with alcohol. Alcohol tends to kill off microbes so it is a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink to give them a chance to recover. Also, avoid binge drinking.
Using antibiotics destroys the friendly bacteria in our gut so it is a good idea to use probiotics as well to help replenish them.
A lack of exercise along with too much stress also takes its toll on our microbes.
In order to be transported long distances our food is picked too soon before it gets a chance to ripen naturally.
Toxins in the environment also kill off our friendly bacteria, and our obsession with hygiene and cleanliness…
What can we do to keep our gut microbiome happy and healthy?
Eat as wide a range of vegetables and some fruits as possible. Make sure you have a rainbow of colours in your basket and try not to fall into the trap of buying the same things every week.
If you are eating plenty of vegetables then you will be getting plenty of fibre which the microbes love to munch on but you also need to eat probiotics as well. Live yoghurt, fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, sourdough bread all help.
Reduce your stress, get some exercise and work to reduce the toxins in your environment and your little friends will be good to get to work.