Note: This was originally posted on July 9, 2015. Below is an update. Enjoy!
Our gut – specifically our large intestine – is full of microbes! About 5 pounds worth.
Oh no! What should we do? Shouldn’t we get rid of them? Aren’t microbes dangerous?
Actually, those microbes in your large intestine help you live a long, healthy life. Research on the gut is showing that many diseases – from physical to mental – may originate because of imbalances in the gut microbiome. The microbiome is the total of all of the microbes in your gut.
First, let’s start with some terminology so that we’re using the same terms. Probiotics are the actual good microbes in your gut. There are all sorts of advertisements on TV about probiotics from yogurts to pills. You want to “seed” your gut with these microbes using a variety of probiotic sources (more about this later).
Prebiotics are foods that feed the microbes. You can talk all the probiotics you want, but if you don’t feed the microbes, they’ll die off. What kind of food do your microbes need? Typically, your microbes do well on foods that you can’t digest. That means fiber. Lots, and lots of fiber. Fiber isn’t just good for keeping you full and helping keep you bowels moving. They’re food for your microbiome! We want those little guys to work hard digesting all that fiber. What are good sources of prebiotics? Here’s a list of some of the best prebiotic-containing foods:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Bananas (greener ones are great)
Back to the Magical Microbiome . . . . We need a large variety of microbes in our gut to maintain our health. Think of your Magical Microbiome like a symphony. A symphony needs a lot of different instruments to sound right. If a symphony had 1 trumpet, 1 person on the triangle, and a bunch of flutes it wouldn’t sound right. If your microbiome doesn’t have a variety of microbes, your gut doesn’t function right. You may get gas, diarrhea, constipation, etc.
Ever wonder why you get constipated when you take antibiotics? It’s because the antibiotics kill off some or all of your microbiome.
How do you repopulate your microbiome or increase the diversity? If you’ve been on antibiotics and need to repopulate those guys quickly your best choice is a pill probiotic. Look for one that has a good mix of probiotics including lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. There are multiple strains of each so it should have a mixture of them.
Once you have a base of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, then it’s time to start adding some other instruments to your symphony. You can switch up probiotics every month to get a variety of microbes. Or, even better, you can start including fermented foods in your diet. The classic fermented food is sauerkraut, but there are plenty of others. If you don’t think you like sauerkraut I’d suggest you give it a try if you haven’t eaten it recently. If you don’t want to make your own Bubbies is my preferred brand. If you’re buying sauerkraut, you want to be sure it is raw and doesn’t contain any sugar. It should be in the refrigerated section and kept refrigerated at home. Other fermented foods include:
- Aged cheeses
- Preserved lemoons
- Sour or sweet pickles
- Pickled beets
- Water kefir
- Sourdough bread
- Salt-cured foods
- Smoked foods
- Dried foods (jerkey)
Remember – having a Magical Microbiome takes two steps:
- Seed your gut with microbes – probiotics
- Feed your microbes with prebiotics
Keeping your Magical Microbiome healthy helps keep you healthy.