The trillions of microscopic bacteria that reside in the gut make up the complex ecosystem called the gut microbiome. The role of the bacteria in the gut is much more diverse than we might first think! Studies have shown that our gut bacteria influence many areas of health, including the body’s ability to fight off illness, support heart and cognitive health, manage weight, regulate the level of sugars and lipids in the blood and even athletic performance. They have shown that there are more bacterial cells in the body than human cells1 – so in a way, we are all more bacteria than human! Scientists have determined that there are around 40 trillion bacterial cells throughout the body, as opposed to only 30 trillion human cells. Given the pivotal role that bacteria play in managing the body’s natural functions, it is essential to regulate and nourish the necessary good bacteria in the gut microbiome. But how can we give the body’s bacterial communities the support they need?
1. Eat your greens, reds, yellows…
It is said that variety is the spice of life, and this proverb could not be truer when it comes to nourishing the gut microbiome through diet! The body needs a diverse array of nutrients to function at its best. One core way to support physical and mental health is to nourish good bacteria in the gut that are known to have a positive influence on the body – which is where prebiotic fibre comes into the equation!
Diet is one of the most crucial aspects of maintaining health. Eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts that contain prebiotic fibre (the non-digestible fibre that feeds the bacteria in the gut) supports the gut microbiome by nourishing the good bacteria. These microbes are essential to giving the body the resilience to fight off viruses and infections, as well as regulating the gastrointestinal tract. Food such as onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, barley and seaweed are abundant in prebiotic fibre – try to include more in your diet!
2. Fermented cultures
Take a look around your local supermarket and you’ll find a growing selection of fermented products taking the shelves by storm. Many dairy sections offer live yoghurt and kefir, and shoppers will also find fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi, which all contain rich quantities of beneficial bacteria for the gut microbiome. Fermented foods have been a popular staple in many cultures for centuries and are seeing rising popularity in the West. The process of preserving food enables microorganisms to convert sugars and starches into alcohol or acids, resulting in a distinctive, strong, and slightly bitter flavour. The transformation of sugars and starches enrich bacteria called probiotics. A popular probiotic powerhouse fermented dish is kimchi, a staple in Korean diets. Check out this easy-to-follow recipe for Kohlrabi Kimchi.
3. Prebiotic fibre
Prebiotics are not to be confused with probiotics. Although they both play a part in the health of the gut microbiome, their roles are very different. Probiotics are good bacteria which support the digestive system and balance of good and bad bacteria. Conversely, prebiotics are the fuel for these bacteria. The non-digestible fibre acts as a fertiliser in the gut, encouraging helpful microbes to thrive. Although prebiotic fibre can be found in foods, it tends to be in smaller amounts. Individuals would need to consume a lot to achieve a measurable 'prebiotic effect', which isn’t easily achievable for some. Instead, prebiotic supplements such as Bimuno® DAILY can go a long way in helping the body stimulate, sustain and protect the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
For thousands of years, people have benefited from the calming, strengthening and mentally enriching qualities of yoga. Specific postures (‘asanas’) in yoga are thought to improve digestion and support the gastrointestinal tract through the twisting and stretching of the body. The Hatha branch of yoga in particular brings and element of calming and mindfulness; a technique used for relaxing the gastrointestinal tract.
Postures such as cat-cow and revolved triangle poses compress and release the lower part of the stomach, helping a fresh supply of oxygen and blood to flow to the gut, resulting in good gut function. The corpse pose encourages the body to regulate the passing of waste efficiently by stimulating the colon. More directly, exercise is understood to support bacterial diversity2 in the gut, which could help us achieve a more favourable balance. As a popular form of physical activity, yoga could help us support our digestive function and gut bacteria in many ways! For more information on yoga, visit the Yoga Journal.
5. Aerobic Exercise
As well as yoga, more general physical activity can play a role too. Studies have shown that effective exercise successfully modifies and positively affects the gut microbiome3. Research has shown that exercising can, in fact, enhance diversity and encourage bacterial growth in the gut, which plays a positive role in energy homeostasis and regulation. The National Health Service (NHS) frequently suggests that the average adult should do some physical exercise every day and recommends 150 minutes of activity a week. Moderate aerobic activities like jogging, brisk walking, dancing or rollerblading raise the heart rate. For those starting from scratch, the week-by-week Couch to 5k podcast is an excellent place to start in increasing daily exercise.
6. A Good Night’s Sleep
The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural and internal process that regulates the hormones for the sleep-wake cycle and researchers have established a link between the cycle and the gut microbiome4. The internal clock that controls the body's feeling of wakefulness and sleep also affects the rhythm of the gut microbiome. The daily activities and tasks of the beneficial bacteria depends on a regular day and night schedule, enabling the efficient and effective management of mental and physical satiety. For more information on how to achieve a good night’s sleep and support the complex culture within the gut, read this latest study.
Though the gut microbiome is a complex system of actions and reactions, supporting it can be simple! Through being mindful of diet and physical activity, there are simple everyday changes we can make to give the gut bacteria the love and support it needs to flourish. Why not visit our Bimuno resources to discover more? Click here to discover more about your gut microbiome and the trillions of bacteria that keep the body performing at its best.
- Sender R, Fuchs S, Milo R (2016) Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biol 14(8): e1002533.
- Clarke SF, Murphy EF, O'Sullivan O, et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversityGut 2014;63:1913-1920.
- Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:3831972.
- Marotta A, Sarno E, Del Casale A, et al. Effects of Probiotics on Cognitive Reactivity, Mood, and Sleep Quality. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:164.
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