Why Your Gut Bacteria Are So Important For Health
At first, it might be a terrifying thought but the billions of bacteria cells that live in your gut (the microbiome), outnumber your total cell count by a factor of 10. Influenced by the variety and quality of the foods that you consume, there are hundreds of different bacteria that can make up your gut microbiome and have tremendously different effects on its function and the function of almost every other organ in the body.
You would think that such a stat alone would garner more attention from the medical world but the role of the gut microbiome is poorly understood by most traditional healthcare practitioners and to the detriment of our collective health, too often ignored.
The simple truth is that the right population of bacteria in your gut is so important to its function that you cannot survive without them and cannot reach your optimal health either.
What Good Gut Bacteria Do
The reason? These good bacteria are instrumental in the digestion and absorption of nutrient building blocks we need and as emerging peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates, affect almost every aspect our of physiology including the following:
- Facilitate the absorption and digestion of nutrients
- Create a physical barrier to protect the gut from harmful invaders
- Act as a second liver by detoxifying the gut; preventing infections and removing toxins that make it into the intestinal tract
- Influence the immune response and help prevent autoimmunity! The gut is the biggest immune system organ in the body.
- Modulate the endocrine/hormone system to affect how you handle stress
- Facilitate a good night’s sleep
- Affect the risk of almost every chronic disease by controlling the body’s inflammation pathways.
- Most importantly to us, communicate directly with the nervous system through the Gut-Brain axis, which we know, is the body’s most important organ.
Two Mind-Blowing Studies To Prove It
While the science that explains these mechanisms of action is beyond the scope of this manual we will provide two mind-blowing examples of research.
- If you take the bacteria from an obese mouse and put it into a skinny mouse, the skinny mouse will become obese. The opposite is also true and not just limited to mice experiments; human research shows that the obese, diabetic and people with metabolic diseases have drastically different types of bacteria in their gut than their healthy counterparts.
- Other microbiome-swapping studies in mice and now humans have shown that introducing a healthier gut microbiome can reduce the production of inflammatory hormones and chemicals, which lessens the stress response to emotionally stirring scenarios!
We also know that poor health of the gut microbiome is associated with a range of health problems including depression, chronic neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, metabolic disease, autoimmune reactions, irritable and inflammatory bowel disease and skin conditions like eczema.
How Do I Change My Gut Bacteria
Now you might be wondering, “what are the “right” or “good” bacteria and how do I get them in my belly”? The important thing to remember is that your microbiome eats what you eat. The nutrients that are available in the gut will determine what bacteria survive the best.
The North American diet is rich in grains, simple sugars, artificial sweeteners and Omega 6 fats that are pro-inflammatory and deficient in plants and vegetables. These dietary factors promote the growth and population of Firmicutes bacteria. These bacteria do a poorer job at digesting and absorbing nutrients. They ultimately do not facilitate the optimal genetic expression of your gut and body. We want fewer bacteria in our gut that thrive off of foods and by-products of a highly processed and sugar-rich diet.
The Best Foods To Eat For Better Gut Bacteria
The “good” bacteria that we want, thrive and populate in our gut when they can consume vegetables, low-sugar fruit like avocado, tomato and bell peppers, healthy fats, protein and naturally fermented/pickled vegetables and other whole foods. These are the Fundament FUEL strategies that we have been talking about thus far. These foods naturally contain nutrients that our body and symbiotic gut bacteria need as building blocks to function at their best.
While the purpose of the FUEL Curriculum is never to “prescribe” foods to treat a particular condition, we do encourage the consumption of naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, yoghurt, fermented vegetables, and kimchi to introduce more healthy bacteria and nutrient building blocks to the gut that promote its health.
Foods pickled in vinegar are not naturally fermented, as they will not contain the same gut-optimizing, probiotic bacteria. Natural fermentation means that lactic acid-producing bacteria partially consume and ferment the foods they are packaged with and pickle them through lactic acid fermentation. As a rule, consuming a small amount of naturally fermented food each day is fundamental.
Do I Need To Take A Priobiotc
If you have been eating Fundament FUELs for years and do so consistently, there would be no need to consume probiotics. The Fundamental FUEL strategies will naturally promote the growth and population of good bacteria in the gut with a steady stream of nutrients that they require for their and your health.
If not, probiotics can help to accelerate the process and might be required to restore a healthy microbiome population to the gut. Factors like antibiotic use, overly sterile environments, poor nutrition and even birth by Cesarean section can promote the invasion and colonization of the gut with “bad” bacteria that work against your natural physiology.
In the absence of abiding by the Fundamental FUEL strategies, or as you begin to introduce them, a broad-spectrum probiotic containing 10 + billion CFU/day is likely needed to supplement and support the good bacteria that your body requires to be healthy.