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Demystifying the Gut Microbiome and 5 Steps to Fostering a Healthy Gut
The role of food in disease prevention and The 5 R’s of Gut Health.
Read Time: 3 minutes
Demystifying the Gut
“In food excellent medicine can be found; in food bad medicine can be found” — Hippocrates, Greek physician
Our gut consists of the small and large intestines which are home to trillions of microorganisms called gut microbiota.
The species of microorganisms in our gut include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.
In healthy individuals, these species live in harmony.
We all have a unique network of microbiota that is first determined by our DNA.
Over time, lifestyle choices and environmental influences can change our microbiome for better or worse.
Bad Gut, Good Gut, Leaky Gut, Healthy Gut
Six out of 10 people in the U.S. have a chronic disease (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc.).
The largest driver of this statistic, among other influences such as smoking and vaping, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol, is poor nutrition.
Food can be extremely powerful in causing or preventing disease.
A large proportion of the likelihood we develop a disease has to do with the foods we choose to eat and, arguably more importantly, those we choose to avoid.
What we eat also has cascading impacts on bodily functions from cognitive ability to physical performance.
Recall your past experiences as an example.
How do you feel after eating a salad, quinoa, and chicken versus after downing a large pizza and soda?
If you’re at all attuned with your body, the difference is drastic.
The latter makes you slow, heavy, and drowsy whereas the former provides long-lasting energy, razor-sharp focus, and physical vitality.
This begs the question of why?
Among other influences such as blood sugar variations and nutrient intake, our gut plays a key role.
Since the contents of the microbiome in your gut are impacted by what you eat, your diet influences how you feel on a daily basis and massively impacts your long-term health.
Your gut is your second brain.
Fostering and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is a critical piece to longevity.
Not only for living longer, but for feeling stronger, thinking clearer, and having energy all day long.
Gut Check: The 5 R’s to Superb Gut Health
The 5 R’s of gut health is a simple framework that can be used to prevent imbalances, rejuvenate a bad gut, and promote a healthy gut.
Each "R" represents a step in the process of restoring and maintaining gut health.
Here’s the breakdown:
Step #1: Remove
The first step is to eliminate foods that cause damage to the gut.
Start with the low-hanging fruit such as overly processed foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and junk food. Anything that is hyper-palatable (candy, chips, cookies, cake, etc.) should go.
After that, turn to potential irritants, sensitivities, or allergies, the most common of which are gluten and dairy.
If you feel better after eliminating gluten and dairy, that’s probably a strong indicator they were disrupting your gut.
If you feel the same whether you eat them or not, there’s probably nothing to worry about.
Listen to your body. Trust your gut.
Step #2: Replace
Replace the damaging foods you removed in Step 1 with foods that provide essential nutrients and digestive enzymes to support proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
This can be achieved through a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains, healthy fats, and fermented foods.
Supplements such as prebiotics and digestive enzymes can also be used but it is critical to consult a doctor first.
But before turning to supplements, focus on eating a whole foods diet that naturally contains prebiotics and digestive enzymes.
Step #3: Reinoculate
Reinoculation, replenishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut, is done by consuming probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts that provide health benefits and can be consumed in two ways:
Supplements: high-quality probiotics.
Fermented foods: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and yogurt (not the sugar-infused kind).
Add fermented foods to your diet and consult a medical or naturopathic doctor before starting any supplements.
Step #4: Repair
The goal of this stage is to heal existing damage in the gut and restore the integrity of the gut lining.
This is done by providing the gut with the necessary nutrients and substances to promote healing, including:
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)
Focus on consuming foods rich in these nutrients and, again, consult a medical professional before taking supplements.
Step #5: Restore
The final step is focused on sustaining long-term gut health.
Maintaining a healthy gut requires a balanced and diverse diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and effective stress management.
Chronic stress and certain medications can be extremely disruptive to the gut, so you can’t just rely on diet to maintain a healthy digestive system.
That’s all for this week!
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