Digestive Health 101: Understanding The Microbiome & Gut Wellness

Do you ever feel like your stomach is playing games with you? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Digestive health is a topic that affects everyone, but it's not always so easy to understand. 

We’re here to make it a little easier. In this blog post, we'll be covering everything you need to know about the microbiome - a small, yet extensive system in your gut. We'll explore what the microbiome is, how it affects our overall health, and some tips on how to keep your gut in tip-top shape. Let’s get started! 

What Is The Gut Microbiome?

Let’s begin with the basics - what is the gut microbiome, exactly? The microbiome is an elaborate network of microbes (such as bacteria and fungi) residing in the small and large intestines. 

This complex system plays an essential role in various physiological functions including digestion, nutrient absorption, immunity, brain activity, metabolism, and so much more. 

On top of this, the microbiome is also key for producing essential vitamins in the body - which helps to protect against harmful pathogens and support various physiological systems. 

For the sake of general health and well-being, understanding and nourishing the microbiome should be a top priority. 

What Does The Gut Microbiome Do?

At this point, you might be wondering - ‘what does the gut microbiome do?’

It might sound a little strange to think of the trillions of tiny, living organisms in our gut, though they actually serve many crucial functions - each of which are essential for our health. 

Firstly, one of the most important roles of the microbiome is to assist with digestion. This colony of microbes helps to break down complex carbohydrates and fibres that our bodies can’t digest on their own. This process produces short-chain fatty acids, which provide energy for the cells lining the colon. 

The microbiome also contributes to the production of specific vitamins, such as vitamin K and vitamin B - both of which are essential for proper function. 

The responsibility of the microbiome extends far beyond the gut. For example, another important role of this system is to train our immune system - acting as a defence mechanism to protect from harmful pathogens. It’s also believed to communicate with the brain through the gut-brain axis - influencing our mood and behaviour. 

It’s clear just how far this system’s influence can reach throughout the body, which is why it’s very important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced microbiome.

How To Support A Healthy Gut Microbiome

The microbiome plays such an important role in our health and well-being, which is why it’s crucial that we look after it. Below, we’ve listed 3 ways you can support and nourish your gut bacteria - take a look! 

Grab A Probiotic 

When it comes to supporting your microbiome, one of the best things you can do is get your hands on a probiotic. 

Probiotics are live bacteria that replenish and rebalance the microbiome when consumed. This supports healthy digestion, immune function, nutrient absorption, and promotes overall wellbeing. 

Not to mention, they can also prevent pesky gut-related discomforts - such as bloating and flatulence. 

You can get a healthy dose of probiotics from fermented foods, or a probiotic supplement. 

Eat A Diverse Diet 

Another great way to ensure your microbiome is running smoothly is to consume a diverse diet, rich in fibre. 

When we consume a variety of healthy foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean proteins, and fermented food, we're providing a buffet of different nutrients, fibres, and plant compounds for our gut bacteria to feast on. 

This can help promote a healthy and balanced microbiome, which in turn benefits our digestion, immune system, and overall well-being

Stay Hydrated 

Believe it or not, keeping yourself well-hydrated does wonders for the gut bacteria living inside of you. 

A well-hydrated body creates an optimal environment for the growth and balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. 

Plus, proper hydration supports regular bowel movements, which helps in the removal of waste and toxins, which keeps your microbiome happy and healthy. 

What Affects The Gut Microbiome? 

It turns out that quite a few things can have an impact on our microbiome in both positive and negative ways. 

Firstly, the food we consume has a major role. What we eat can either promote a healthy and diverse microbiome or disrupt its balance altogether. For example, foods rich in fibre, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, are great for feeding those friendly gut bacteria. On the other hand, a diet high in processed foods and sugar can throw things out of whack. 

Medications are another major factor. Antibiotics, for example, can disturb the gut microbiome by killing both harmful and beneficial bacteria. 

Stress is another common culprit. When we're stressed, it can affect the balance of bacteria in our gut, leading to digestive issues such as diarrhoea, constipation, or any bloating. 

Finally, let's not forget about how our lifestyle choices impact gut health. Lack of sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can all have major negative effects on our gut bacteria. This is why it’s important to be mindful of our diet and manage stress to keep our microbiome in good condition. 

*The information in this article should be considered as advice only. Before using probiotics or implementing any of the information above, speak with a healthcare professional. 

July 25, 2023