What is the gut biome?
Living inside all of us are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what’s known as the microbiota, or the microbiome. Each person’s microbiota is different, kinda like a fingerprint. Our gut biome is mainly determined by your mother’s microbiota, the environment that we were exposed to at birth and most importantly our diet and lifestyle.
Why is gut health so important?
Our gut biome is related to many other aspects of our health. it is far more than just a quirky part of our biology but rather an integral and often overlooked part of what makes us function properly as human beings.
Allow me to put it in context for you, there is believed to be 10 times as many bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells and a hundred times more bacterial genes associated with the collective genome of humans. Just by these numbers alone, we have to rethink the degree to which the bacteria living inside us affect our everyday life.
Are they good or bad?
Bacteria are important players in the regulation of all aspects of our health, especially our immunology. The human immune system is found mainly in the gut, specifically the colon which has the highest concentration of immune cells in the body, the colon is also the habitat of several important and beneficial gut biota. Modern science indicates that the co-existence of these helpful bacteria and our immune cells dictates the resilience of our immune system— and by extension, our overall health status. Having the wrong bacteria in our gut could potentially cause harm in the entire body leading to ailments like lung infection, speeding up the development of autoimmune disease, and even ruin mental health, causing anxiety and depression by inflammation of the brain.
Why Would You Feed Your Worst Enemies?
We could better control the quality of the bacteria living inside us by paying close attention to what they interact with the most, the food we eat.
Good food for the bacteria
Dietary fiber is metabolized by certain bacteria in the gut into short chain fatty acids such as lactic acid and butyric acid. These short chain fatty acids provides signals to certain immune cells to regulate their function in a positive way and also suppress the immune system from becoming too active. Conversely when our diet lacks dietary fiber and is filled with simple sugars found in refined carbohydrates (flour, white rice, candy, bread) bacteria in the upper gut (small intestines) are well fed and proliferate— while the helpful bacteria, our friends are left to starve and die, or they resort to turning on us by eating or stomach lining for energy, more on that soon.
What is Fiber Anyways?
Complex carbohydrates from foods such as root crops, leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables are important for regulating our immune system because the bacteria eat fiber and produce short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids are important for increasing the number of T regulatory cells that calm the immune system and reduce inflammation. If we aren’t eating enough dietary fiber( which most of us aren’t), it will put your body in a hyper-inflammatory state which is the basis for many diseases mental and physical. Furthermore if the bacteria in our lower tract don’t get fiber they are forced to feed on the mucus lining in our GI tract which slowly deletes the protective barrier between our human DNA and the gut bacteria. As this barrier diminishes, or immune system starts to freak out with these microbes (the immune system does not like anything that isn’t human DNA) and their waste products— because the metabolism of bacteria is still not well understood, this calls for even more reason why we should prevent this from even happening, through better diet choices.
What does this mean for my mood?
Quoting the article I had already wrote; “ Eating For Mental Health” increased gut permeability leads to the increased production of cytokines (inflammatory messenger substances) in the intestines. Because of the damage done to the intestinal walls these messenger substances are able to enter the circulatory system and enter the blood brain barrier which could lead to an inflammatory condition of the brain that impairs brain function There’s substantial evidence to support the claims that the immune system’s ability to function and remain calm is one of the largest contributing factors to our general mood and mental health—simply put, we are what we eat on all fronts.
How can we eat our way to a friendlier gut?
Eating like our earlier predecessors, or even eating more like your grandmother is one of the easiest ways to improve gut fiber, nothing too fancy, just making the effort to eat a lot more fiber of different sources such as root crops, fruit, vegetables etc. Here are some other guidelines
- Avoid sugars and white foods
- Avoid all box and processed foods and food containing artificial colours
- Avoid foods that you’re sensitive to (foods that make you bloat or give you indigestion and irregular bowel movement)
- Include more high quality breakfast
- Make sure to eat breakfast that is high in protein
- Switch to grass fed meat and wild fish
- Eat fermented grains
- Eat whole real quality foods that are seasonal
Because mental wellness is multi-faceted, your approach should be the same with all factors considered. We should wholeheartedly make the effort to avoid stress, eat more fiber, drink more water, eat more protein, get more sunlight and laugh more— the improvements you feel will motivate you to sticking to these life changing habits.
Mark Miller Jr, Founder of MonkFit Wellness Systems
Thank you Mark for sharing with us this week!