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Mind your microbiome: 9 ways to boost your gut health

In honour of World Microbiome Day, here are some simple tips for protecting and boosting your microbiome

2 MIN READ
26 Jun 2019
Images: Pixabay

When it comes to ground-breaking research in the realm of food and the gut, the microbiome – the research focus of Science Foundation Ireland research centre APC Microbiome Ireland – is at the forefront of both discussion and discovery.

So, what exactly is the microbiome? Well, the microbiome is the term used to describe the vast collection of bacteria (or microbes) in a particular environment.

The gut microbiome consists of approximately 100 trillion microbes including bacteria, fungi and viruses, with the majority of these found in the colon.

Your gut microbiome plays various important roles in your body, such as producing vitamins, digesting fibre, and developing your immune system. So, it’s safe to say that minding your microbiome is really important!

Following World Microbiome Day, on June 27, what better time to learn about how we can protect and boost our microbiome? Here are nine tips:

 

1. Eat a healthy and diverse diet

A healthy and diverse diet is vital for a healthy gut microbiome, helping the good bacteria to thrive. Research has shown that a Mediterranean-style, plant-based diet is best for the microbiome; so fill the shopping basket with plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

2. Introduce fermented foods to your diet

Fermented foods contain live microbes which will fight against the harmful bacteria in your gut. Incorporating sources such as unsweetened yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut to your diet will help to boost your microbiome.

3. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary

The discovery of antibiotics revolutionised modern medicine, and some illnesses simply cannot be overcome without them. However, as antibiotics are known to kill off both good and bad bacteria, research experts recommend that they are only taken where absolutely necessary.

4. Cut down your stress levels

Easier said than done, we know; but stress can have many negative effects on our bodies, and the microbiome is no exception. As experiencing stress can alter our gut bacteria, cutting stress out – or, at least, down – can help to protect our microbiome. Practicing calming meditation and getting a good night’s sleep can make a major difference.

5. Take a probiotic

Probiotics contain friendly bacteria which, researchers believe, refresh and replenish your microbiome. Experts recommend that you choose your probiotic carefully, ensuring that it is underpinned by good science.

6. Consume prebiotics

We’ve covered probiotics, so what about prebiotics? Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that nourish the good bacteria in our gut. Everyday examples include garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, flax seeds and seaweed. Time to stock up!

7. Get some exercise

Research has shown that exercise can contribute to a more diverse microbiome; and a more diverse microbiome is a healthier one! As exercise is also great for your mental and broader physical health, making time to get out for a walk or a run really is a no-brainer.

8. Hug your dog

It may sound a little strange, but hugging your dog can actually boost your microbiome! Getting a little mucky in the garden won’t hurt, either! This is because these interactions introduce us to good bacteria from the microbiomes of our pets and the world around us. Hygiene is important, however, so make sure and wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

9. Avoid artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been found to be toxic to the good bacteria in the digestive system, while harmful bacteria thrive on the likes of aspartame and saccharine. Protect your microbiome by avoiding sweeteners like these, as well as highly processed foods.

 

For more information about looking after your microbiome, visit the APC Microbiome Ireland website through this link.

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