9 May 2016

My guide to a healthy microbiota

Our microbiota is our own personal microsystem helping us to digest our food and fight invaders. It is composed of trillions of micro-organisms that populate our body, mostly in our gut. Among them, good and bad species fight for their territories. And the things we eat will feed the species that take over territories in our gut; studies have shown that eating processed food and a lot of sweet stuff is really good at killing off the most beneficial species that help us stay fit and healthy. On the other hand, eating food that will make our most beneficial species grow strong will help us achieve our goals of healthy living. More and more, doctors, nutritionists, naturopaths, (even oncologists), recognize the influence of good bacteria on our health.
What we are struggling with, however, is to know what to do about it. So, what can we do about it?

Here is my ultimate guide for a healthy microbiota. I gathered information and organized it into four sections:


Diet

Fibres - Yes

Why should I pay attention to my fibres intake?

1. Fibres have been advised as part of a healthy diet for years because they help with intestinal transit and make you regular.
2. It is also now known that certain fibres can be prebiotics, i.e. dedicated microbiota food that encourages good bacteria to prosper to help us fight invaders (more on how they do it HERE and why it's essential HERE).
3. Good bacteria help us to keep our colon intact and avoid inflammation (the infamous leaky gut syndrome) (more on this coming soon).

Where can I find fibres?

Apples, bananas, berries, raisins, kiwi, agave, honey, greens, onions, garlic, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, lentils, chickpeas, beans, brown rice, corn, buckwheat, flaxseed, whole wheat, whole rye, barley, almonds
Please note, foods such as cheese and cereal bars that are labelled ‘prebiotic’ usually have added inulin, a soluble fibre most often extracted from chicory root.

Fermented food - Yes

Fermented food is also an excellent source of goodies for your microbiota.
Sauerkraut; yogurt; soy; natto, miso or tempeh (fermented soy beans with specific species of bacteria); kefir (fermented milk); and kombucha (fermented green/black tea).

What to avoid?

Dietary emulsifiers
A paper published in the highly regarded Nature journal showed that dietary emulsifiers may promote intestinal issues in pre-disposed individuals and metabolic syndrome in anyone (obesity and diabetes). Indeed, carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 were shown to induce low-grade inflammation with consequences on the gut's mucosal integrity.

Glycoalkaloids?
Some of you who may be familiar with the leaky gut syndrome may have heard that saponins, aka glycoalkaloids, affect the integrity of our colon and should be avoided at all cost.
Saponins are present in spinach, oats, chick peas, beans, asparagus, onions, yams, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers as well as potatoes and tubers, but aren’t present in sweet potatoes. 
Whether these really have an impact on our health, I don't know yet, this will require a more extensive research, which I will carry out very soon.
But what I could find was that cooked potatoes release dietary resistant dextrin that act as prebiotic to modulate positively our microbiota. Moreover, a study in 2015 explained that if potatoes were previously thought to have a negative impact on our health, more research has revealed anti-cancer properties.

Sugar, processed meat, non-organic food are other types of food that are not recommended for a healthy microbiota. However, they do deserve a whole blog post each so, please come back soon to read about their impact on our gut mucosal integrity.

Behavioural habits

Alcool and smoking are clearly bad for you. Both have links to a higher risk of developing diseases including a long list of various cancers. In terms of influence on our microbiota, excessive alcohol intake has been shown to affect our microbial composition (HERE). Giving up smoking has also been shown to have remarkable effect and stimulate a healthier and more diverse microbiota (HERE).

Exercise is also a very good way of promoting a diverse microbiota as signals are sent via the gut-brain axis (HERE). Although admittedly when you exercise you are also more likely to follow a healthy regime, a study in mice showed that exercise alone induces gut microbial changes that are different from changes induced by diet (HERE).


Antibiotics is a subject I've already approached HERE. In brief, antibiotics can save human lives but definitely kill gut microbial lives so overuse is not recommended.

Sanitation is a thing of our generation whereby we absolutely want to get rid of all species on our bodies. But do we really? Too much soap, alcohol, and skin lotions are affecting our skin microbiota, which has been shown to enable bad bacteria to prosper (HERE).

Emotional being

Ever had a gut feeling about something? Ever wondered why we say GUT feeling? Scientists now believe that our microbiota has a major impact on our emotional well-being through the brain-gut axis (HERE). The brain-gut axis is the two-way information highway between our brain and our gut.
Moreover a recently aired TV documentary explained that in all situations, wearing a smile when you feel sad can make you feel better and change your brain signals.
My tips are then to smile, laugh when you can, reduce your daily stress, and accumulate all the beauty sleep you can get.

Maternal influence

Not much we can do about this but certainly you hope your mum had the opportunity to breastfeed you when you were a baby as breast milk is especially conceived to include both pre- and probiotics. And although you don't really have a choice on whether you were born naturally or by C-section, being born naturally and colonized by mum's best microbial starter pack puts you at an advantage in terms of lowered risk of developing diseases compared with C-section babies.
I've already written about this, you can find these articles HERE, HERE, and HERE.

I hope you enjoyed my ultimate guide,

What do you think would be easier to start with? Exercise, diet?
Let me know in the comment section, I'd love to read your stories.

See you next Monday!

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My bugs and I Published @ 2014 by Ipietoon