How your gut microbiome affects your health – Cleveland Clinic

We all had a “gut feeling”. And while this popular saying is based on our intuition and instinct, our gut really does play a role in our health and how we feel and function.

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The term “gut health” has become a popular term in recent years. The gut microbiome describes the microbes and genetic material found in the digestive system. And we know that the bacteria in our gut influence everything from digestion to our mental health.

“Gut health is really important,” says registered dietitian Kristen Kirkpatrick, RD. “There is so much interest and research around the microbiome and gut health now that experts often refer to it as the ‘second brain.

Gastroenterology researcher and registered dietitian Gail Cresci, PhD, RD, and Kirkpatrick discuss the gut microbiome and how it can affect your health.

What is the gut microbiome?

You might think your gut microbiome is in your stomach, but it’s in the large and small intestine.

“It contains all the microbes that are inside our gut,” says Dr. Krishi. These microbes consist of bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses.

And we’re not talking about a few hundred microbes – it’s estimated that there are about 100 trillion microbes inside the human body, and many of them reside in our gut.

When you eat food, the stomach acid in your stomach destroys many of the pathogens you ingest.

“We consume microbes all the time through our food and water,” Dr. Krishi says. “But the ones that escape stomach acid and then go down the intestinal tract.”

The goal is to have a healthy gut microbiome. Factors such as your diet, infections, and certain medications can affect its balance. An unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to certain diseases and affect your mental health.

The importance of your gut microbiome

The intestinal tract is the largest organ of your immune system, with about 80% of immune-producing cells living there.

“What we have learned over the years is that there is a lot of crosstalk between your gut microbiome and your body,” says Dr. Krishi.

The gut microbiome plays a role in digestion, metabolism, and inflammation. As a baby, your gut microbiome helps develop the immune system in your gut, and then when you become an adult, it helps maintain it.

“There are certain gut microbes that can produce small molecules that can also help manufacture certain vitamins, enzymes, and hormones that the body needs,” Dr. Krishi notes.

Research is ongoing on how the gut microbiome works along with parts of the body such as the brain, heart, liver, and lungs.

Symptoms of an unhealthy gut microbiome

An imbalance and function of healthy and unhealthy microbes is known as gut dysbacteriosis.

“We have observed that people with various psychological issues or mood disorders have intestinal dysplasia, which means there are changes in the composition and function of the gut microbiome,” Dr. Krishi says.

Dr. Krishi cautions that not all symptoms of an unhealthy gut microbiome are the same for everyone.

Some common symptoms may include:

If you have gut dysbacteriosis, it may be related to other conditions such as:

  • diabetic.
  • obesity.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“The health of your gut is very important because studies are already showing that gut health plays a huge role in our overall health,” Kirkpatrick says. “It affects our risk of developing chronic disease, our ability to manage our weight, and even our immune system.”

How to improve the gut microbiome

Here are some of the ways you can improve your gut microbiome.

Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables

Start by focusing on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. You want to have ‘microbial diversity’, which will lead to better gut health.

So how do we achieve that?

“It’s really looking at diversity in our diet,” says Kirkpatrick. “If someone tells me they eat kale all day, I think that’s a great habit but it’s only one color. It’s only one type of nutrients that they get with kale. So, we need to add more color to our diet. We need to add More variety.”

Consider getting a plate full of colorful produce. For example, make a kale salad with other vegetables and fruits like peppers, tomatoes, and berries.

Add fiber to your diet

Another vital part of your diet is making sure you’re eating enough fiber. It is recommended that women eat 25 grams of fiber per day and men 35 grams of fiber per day.

Fiber helps keep bowel movements regular, but it also helps lower cholesterol and keeps blood sugar levels from rising. High-fiber foods include whole-wheat pasta, chickpeas, lentils, and berries.

“You want to have both soluble and insoluble fiber,” Kirkpatrick says. “Soluble fiber swells in water, for example, oats from oatmeal. And insoluble fiber like nuts does not swell. We want both types of it.”

Dr. Krishi also suggests following a diet low in animal meats and simple sugars and watching the amount of processed foods and refined sugar you consume.

Eat fermented foods

Consider adding fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi and kombucha to your diet.

These fermented foods help introduce good bacteria into the gut microbiome and can lower the pH level in the gut. By doing so, it can reduce the chance of bad bacteria surviving.

By having good bacteria in your gut microbiome, it also produces essential vitamins like B12 and K.

stress reduction

Your stress level can affect the health of your gut.

“We are learning more about how stress affects the gut microbiome,” Dr. Krishi says. This means psychological stress, physical stress and metabolic stress.

How can you work to reduce your stress levels? Turn to relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation to help reduce stress and anxiety. You can also try to exercise regularly and prioritize sleep.

Maintain a regular eating schedule

In addition to eating a balanced diet, it is also important when You are Eating.

“You have a circadian rhythm, but your microbiome has a circadian rhythm as well,” explains Dr. Krishi. “If you’re eating late at night, your microbiome probably isn’t ready to metabolize these nutrients either.”

Try to stick to your meals at the same time every day.

Avoid taking certain medications for the long term

Sometimes, taking antibiotics is inevitable, notes Dr. Krishi.

“But antibiotics will kill pathogens and attack the good microbes in the gut as well,” she adds.

Dr. Krishi also cautions against taking over-the-counter acid-reducing agents in the long-term.

“By doing this, you raise the pH of your stomach,” she says. “This gives any ingested pathogens a better chance of surviving, which may alter the microbiome.”

Consider probiotics and prebiotics supplements

You can get the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics from the foods you eat. But you can also use supplements.

Prebiotics, which are naturally found in artichokes, apples, and green bananas, are a type of fiber that supports the growth of healthy bacteria.

Probiotics are live, good bacteria that can maintain or help reach a healthy, balanced gut microbiome. There are two common types of bacteria commonly found in supplement form: Lactobacillus And the Bifidobacterium.

It is important to know that these supplements are fragile. Many of them need refrigeration to protect them from heat, oxygen, light, and moisture, which can reduce their effectiveness.

Look for supplements bearing the seal of approval from testing agencies such as Consumer Reports or Consumer Labs.

And there are many strains of probiotics, so it is essential to find the one that best suits the condition you wish to treat. Some may provide relief if you have IBS or diarrhea. Others can help boost the immune system or reduce inflammation.

Overall, researchers are only just beginning to understand how important the gut microbiome is to how the rest of the body functions. Even small changes in your diet and lifestyle can have a positive effect on the health of your gut.

“You have to look at where you are, and what you are willing to do in order to improve your gut health,” advises Kirkpatrick. “A lot of times, what happens is that you feel the benefits so quickly that it’s easy to move on to the next step.”

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