Holidays are behind us! And it represents a tempting fresh start for many of us. We now vow to get fitter, eat better or lose weight. But while there is no shortage of healthy decisions, a very important one doesn’t seem to make the list:
“Improve my microbiome”
As a company obsessive about healthy intestinal microbiome, we’re here to make a case for why you should ditch the diet and instead focus on improving your microbiome. The impacts on your health will be far reaching, long lasting and set you up for a healthiest year!
Microbiome & Diet
Most of us have heard by now how having a healthy intestinal microbiome can help improve our digestion, but you may be surprised to learn that their role goes beyond helping you to banish the bloat. Evidence suggests that our gut bacteria impacts the way that we store fat, our blood sugar balance, and the response we have to hormones that make us feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin).1
The first hint that our microbes might play a role in the way our body uses the fuel we gain from food came from a study looking at identical twins. Researchers found that thin individuals had a diverse microbiome, while those who were considered obese less so. These observations don’t necessarily mean cause and effect, however, so researchers took it one step further, using an animal model (in this case rodents) to control various factors.
The researchers raised genetically identical baby rodents in a germ-free environment. Then populated their guts with intestinal microbes collected from obese women and their lean twin sisters. The mice ate the same diet, in equal amounts, yet the mice that received bacteria from obese women grew twice as heavy and had more body fat.1 When obese rodents were inoculated with lean bacteria, obese mice developed a healthy weight.1
A different study, published in Cell Host & Microbiome, looked at how a change in diet affected gut bacteria populations. Similar to the above study, researchers inoculated mice with a ‘less diverse microbiota’ (AMER – taken from people following a typical American diet) or a diverse microbiota (CRON - taken from people following a plant-based, calorie-restricted diet with optimal nutrient intake). When the AMER-inoculated mice were switched to a CRON diet, what researchers learned was their microbiota didn’t follow suit (at least initially). They concluded that certain prior dietary-practices might limit the response to future dietary changes unless gut bacteria is addressed.2
What does a healthy microbiome do?
As mentioned prioritizing a healthy intestinal microbiome has far-reaching effects. The more we understand the role our microbiome plays in our health, the better we can understand the important role it plays in many physiological processes.
Here are some ways that improving your microbiome impacts your health:
- Better digestion (i.e. reduces bloating and gas, as well as constipation)3
- Better nutrient absorption4
- Stronger immune system
- Better weight loss efforts
- Improved mood and mental outlook
How to promote diversity in your microbiome?
Switch to a diet of whole foods: processed foods are designed to have a long shelf life. To make these foods taste good they contain high amounts of sugar, salt and fat to mask the chemical taste of the flavorings, coloring, and preservatives. Nutritionally devoid ingredients coupled with chemical additives can mess with our gut bacteria, making it less diverse.
Take a daily probiotic: a high-quality, research-proven probiotic taken daily is a great way to ensure you repopulate the gut with ‘good’ bacteria. Bio-K+ has three unique strains of bacteria that have been shown to increase populations of ‘good’ bacteria, reduce the proliferation of ‘bad’ bacteria, and promote a healthy environment for a diverse microbiome to thrive.
Consume more fiber: fiber is the fuel that our good gut bacteria thrive off. Increase your daily intake of fiber by filling your plate with lots of healthy fruits and veggies, whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, and pulses like lentils or beans.
Limit stress: the gut is referred to as our ‘second brain’. Chronic stress sets in motion the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals, digestive secretions and changes in gut motility that can have an impact on our gut microbiome. If you’re looking for the green light to rest, relax, and take a deep breath – you have our permission!
Feeling healthy is more than just focusing on the numbers on the scale. Instead of overhauling your diet and fitness plan this year, start small, really small (like microscopic small) and focus on the activities and practices that will help improve your gut bacteria. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel.
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