There are trillions of teeny, diverse microbes living on us and in us, and a majority of them have set up permanent home in our very own digestive systems!
Living inside your gut is a large ecosystem (“microbiome”) of micro-organisms so small they cannot be seen by the human eye.
But fear not, us humans are pretty darn adaptable. We’ve created a mutually beneficial relationship with these itty bitty gut squatters. Our bodies aren’t only accepting of their presence, but we actually NEED gut microbes for proper digestion, nutrition and immune responses. In fact, there are many vegetables with nutrients INDIGESTIBLE by humans, but luckily we have our complex little tummy friends to step up and get the job done. That way, we aren’t missing out on any beneficial nutrients that come from eating a plant-based diet!
But here’s the catch.
Just like any community, our gut microbes vary greatly. While a majority of them benefit us, some are harmless and some have a temper. An upsetting environment can cause these little guys to turn on us and trigger disease. In fact, a radically increasing number of reports support associations between the gut microbiome and chronic illnesses.
There are many factors that shape our own personal gut microbiomes (such as geography and ethnicity, use of antibiotics and vaccines, and even breastfeeding as an infant), but GUESS WHAT plays the biggest part in creating a negative environment for gut microbes?
If you guessed DIET, you’re correct! Which makes pretty good sense considering our gut is where all the food we eat ENTERS the body. Maybe Hippocrates was right when he said "All disease begins in the gut" so many years ago.
Food and beverages that disrupt the gut microbiome (like dairy products, factory farmed meats, processed food products and alcohol) don’t just tick off the bad guys, but they also put the good microbes at high risk.
So how do we support a HEALTHY, balanced gut?
If you guessed PLANTS, you’re on a role. A plant-heavy diet provides your gut microbes with exactly what they WANT: some valuable nutrients to break down, some grub that makes them strong and healthy, and a mutually beneficial relationship with you, their hospitable host.
Aside from taking recommended probiotic supplements (digestible capsules filled with billions of live, beneficial micro-organisms), we like to consume PROBIOTIC and PREBIOTIC FOODS that encourage a healthy gut.
Prebiotics have fiber that is not digested by the small intestine. Once it reaches the large intestine, the fiber starts to ferment which feeds good microbes in the gut. Probiotics are foods that went through the fermentation process prior to human ingestion.
Naturally fermented foods like MISO PASTE (we love #misomaster as a SALT replacement) are wonderful probiotics that help with the development of friendly gut microbes, while prebiotics like raw onions will give them strength.
EAT UP! Your tummy friends will thank you.
(Shreiner et al., 2016)(Doucleff, 2013)(Glick-Bauer et al., 2014)(Lipman, 2013).