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We have talked about the gut microbiome before, but it’s worth giving a proper mention to how these trillions of friendly bacteria that lurk in your large colon can influence weight management. This inner alien community works mainly in your best interest. The relationship you have with your microbiome (bacteria and yeast) that live in your gut and on your skin is mostly a happy and mutual one.
The microbiome is home to around 80% of your immune system and 95% of your “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin. It controls your mood, weight and hormones, even your genetic expressions.
Facts About Your Microbiome
It’s vast: Your microbiome is made up of approximately 100,000,000,000,000 (that’s 100 trillion) living microbes. In fact, humans have 10 times more microbiome bacteria to human cells. And it weighs a whopping 5lbs!
It’s super complex: Made up of hundreds of different bacteria strains, some known, and some unknown. The more diverse your microbiome, the better your health tends to be. Diversity comes from exposure to dirt, diverse foods, especially fibre, our environment including the air we breathe, and even how we were born and fed as a baby increases diversity in our microbiome. Our microbiome should be considered as the rich, diverse soil/terrain in our gut garden.
It’s the foundation of your health: Research is now identifying how far-reaching our microbiome influences common lifestyle disease such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Imbalance or gut dysfunction can be directly influencing your body’s health status. 75-80% of your immune system is produced in your gut and many immune issues including autoimmune disease may be linked to gastrointestinal imbalance. IBS, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation are all outward manifestations of gut imbalance and should not be left ignored.
It affects your weight: The gut is now being considered as the missing link when it comes to chronic weight loss resistance. There have been several studies that now associate bacterial imbalances to weight gain, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Low levels of melatonin (our sleep hormone) are also made in the gut as well as the brain. Low levels contribute towards sleep deprivation and this can then lead to increased risk in weight gain. Losing out on sleep disrupts insulin sensitivity as well as your fat-burning hormones such as adiponectin.
When we eat lots of fibre, ‘RDI 30g p.d.’, it feeds the gut bacteria by enabling the bacteria to ferment the fibre. This process produces short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Research suggests our SCFAs also promote weight loss, and all three types of SCFAs (acetate, propionate, and butyrate) decrease cravings.
There are many foods and lifestyle choices that can damage the microbiome diversity and they should ideally be limited or avoided completely:
In reality, most people with underlying gut problems do not have obvious GI symptoms but have the downstream effects of a damaged microbiome. Your gut health is integral to every other system of your body so these effects can crop up anywhere. If you have a chronic autoimmune condition, chances are it is related to microbiome imbalance. Gut issues can come in the form of Leaky Gut Syndrome, Bacterial Dysbiosis(imbalance), Yeast or Fungal Overgrowth or Food Intolerances.
So how can your diet influence your microbiome?
Polyphenols from foods such as blueberries, coffee, and extra-virgin olive oil play a significant role in the prevention of degenerative diseases by improving your microbiome terrain. Eating foods high in soluble and insoluble fibre feed the microbiome, producing health providing SCFA’s as well as prompting proliferation of bacteria diversity.
Fibre comes from plant-based foods: Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts and Seeds, Legumes, Lentils and Chickpeas, Herbs and Spices, fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut. My clinical recommendation is you strive to have 7 portions of plants per day – 5 vegetable and 2 Fruits (80-100g) per portion.
Things you can do to help support your Microbiome include: