Recently, gut health has become a topic abuzz with new science, new connections, and new theories in regards to disease, mental health, and our immune system. As we dive in today, when I say gut, I mean specifically – the Microbiome. If the word microbiome makes your eyes glaze over, head over here to learn more about what is truly going on inside your gut.
As the science of the microbiome and it’s importance continues to unfold, it has become abundantly clear as to how vastly underestimated the gut has been when it comes to our overall health, happiness, and vitality.
Alright – let’s get down to business and learn how to become your absolute best self through your intestines.
If this sounds absolutely absurd, you are not wrong. Throughout my gut health journey, I have found myself thinking “this literally is crazy and makes no sense” hundreds of times. So, I promise you are in good company.
The Bugs That are Controlling Your Life
Let’s untangle this whole microbiome thing first. Because once you get it, the lightbulb will come on and there will be no stopping you.
The microbiome is the culmination of all of the bugs living in your gut. Essentially, it is the reflection of how/where you were born, your diet, and every toxin you have been exposed to since you landed on this planet. (Science is even beginning to point to the development of the microbiome in utero!)
Your microbiome is specifically personalized to you and yet – you probably don’t give it much thought. Here is why you should start: your microbiome is signaling to your brain more often than your brain is signaling to the rest of your entire body through the use of your Enteric Nervous System (ENS).
Picture it like this, your gut is a long tube filled with bugs who are dancing on the tiny nerve endings of the ENS. Their dance controls your life.
The ENS was once thought to be responsible for sending triggers to the brain through the endocrine system such as the feeling of satiety and hunger. But, it has now become clear that it does much more than that. The ENS is a part of a larger system that controls the entire Endocrine system, the signals sent through the Vagal Nerve, digestion (obviously), and less obviously, our immune responses, and emotions.
With cognitive, autoimmune, and mental health disorders on the rise, there is no doubt that there has been a disconnect between the importance of the cohesive system of the microbiome, ENS, and the gut-brain axis for far too long.
Science has begun to link the microbiome and specific gut bacteria to anxiety, depression, and other cognitive disorders such as ADHD and even Autism. The results in altering the gut microbiome can be downright miraculous. (Here is a fabulous medical article on the use of bacteria to alleviate anxiety.)
So, when it comes right down to it, the bacteria that live within your gut (which, by the way, outnumber your human cells 10:1), are controlling your life. As dramatic as that sounds – let’s just dabble with the idea. If your microbiome is in charge of signaling your brain and the alteration of the bugs dancing along your ENS can control your emotions, immune responses, and digestion, how much better would you feel if all of those things were aligned and flowing smoothly and effortlessly?
How to Leverage your Microbiome for Your Best Health and Happiness
I like to think about the microbiome as a rainforest. There are many diverse bacteria living within the gut. The digestive, emotional, immune, and mental problems begin to arise when the population of good bacteria has been either overcrowded or killed off entirely, allowing for bad bacteria, yeast, and fungus to take over. So the very first key to leveraging your microbiome for your health and happiness is to understand the incredible importance of the microbiome. (Yay you! You have already taken the first step!)
The next most important step is to remove that yuck that has taken over your gut (if you want to know more about dysbiosis and how bad bacteria, yeast, and fungus are actually affecting your gut, head over here). What I will say, is that if you live in a Westernized culture, you most likely have some gunk going on in your gut. Pinky promise.
Lastly, now that you have evicted all the sneaky buggers that have been highjacking your life, repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria. This also means diversifying the types of bacteria calling your gut home. So, change it up and don’t get stuck in a rut, eating the same yogurt every day for breakfast. That isn’t going to help much.
I really dig actionable information, because as much as “remove and repopulate” flows – it doesn’t give you much to work with.
So, here is a great list of foods to begin avoiding and introducing in order to remove and repopulate.
These changes do not need to be forever, once you have reset the gut, some of the foods in the remove category will be fine in moderation.
- Refined sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined vegetable oils (trans-fats)
- Pesticides (buy produce using the clean fifteen/dirty dozen list)
- Fluoride, Chlorine, and other water toxins (including heavy metals)
- Organic Goat’s Milk Yogurt
- Cultured Vegetables (think kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh…)
- Dandelion greens
- Green bananas
- Barley (no, beer doesn’t count)
- Steel Cut Oats
- Healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, nuts, ghee, and salmon)
- Bone Broth
- Organic Raw Vegetables
- Organic Raw Fruit
- Fermented dairy (kefir and yogurt)
- Alkaline, non-toxic water
- Probiotics (if you feel like taking probiotics is like throwing cash out the window while you roll down the highway, you are not alone. Feel free to reach out if you need help figuring out what will work best for you and your health goals.)
- Anti-Fungal’s (such as grapefruit and grape seed extract, oregano oil, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, and/or turmeric)
I sure hope that you are feeling a little more prepared and motivated to unlock the best version of yourself. So, are you ready to start treating your gut as if your (best) life depends on it?
For further reading, check out these amazing books: