In my last post, I introduced the microbiome – what it is, it’s benefits, risk factors, and signs of an imbalanced microbiota. Check it out here. Today I want to talk about 3 things you can do at home to optimize your microbiome balance.
3 Daily Tips to Optimize your Gut Microbiome:
Support your stress response system
Ever get loose stools or an upset stomach when you’re stressed? What about the phenomenon of butterflies in the tummy when you’re nervous? Stress and our digestive tract our very interconnected! In fact, our digestive tract has its own nervous system – known as the enteric nervous system. With over a hundred million nerve cells, this system is referred to as the “second brain”. This complex nervous system has two branches – the “fight or flight” mode- where you may experience the digestive consequence of stress, such as diarrhea, bloating or abdominal pain, and the “rest and digest” mode – where you can fully break down your food, and absorb all the nutrients comfortably.
Not surprisingly, stress and our gut microbiome are interconnected. Stress can alter the composition of our gut microbiome. Additionally, a balanced microbiome can help our body’s responsiveness to stress.
Deep belly breathing can help switch our nervous system into “rest and digest mode”. Pushing air deep into the belly can also massage internal organs, supporting good healthy blood flow. Regular deep belly breathing, paired with good food hygiene, are two daily habits I recommend.
Sitting is the new smoking! Lack of exercise and movement is a risk factor for an imbalanced microbiome. Regular movement is important for encouraging a diverse microbiome. Exercise also helps move blood, and improve the integrity of your gut lining. Sitting for just 2 hours a day can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity. Both of these conditions have also been shown to have an imbalance microbiome as apart of the picture.
Get some movement every hour. Stand up, stretch, and get the blood flowing throughout the weekday. Go for a walk every 2 hours and during your lunch break. On a weekly basis, I encourage 150 minutes of sweating.
Eat the rainbow & avoid food sensitivities
Your diet can influence the composition of your microbiome in just 24 hours. This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest factors when it comes to optimizing your microbiome. The food you eat feeds the bugs in your microbiome, which can in turn create by-products that feed other bugs and increase the integrity of your gut lining.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to diet is – the more diverse the better. Eat with the seasons, eat lots of colours and limit refined processed foods. Sugar or refined foods tend to feed particular strains of opportunistic bugs that be more disruptive to the microbiome than beneficial. Additionally, if you’ve got a food sensitivity or food intolerance, this can cause irritation to the gut lining, increase local inflammation, and be disruptive to the environment. Comparatively, vegetables, berries, fiber, can feed the more beneficial strains.
As a general rule, I recommend sticking to the outer grocery aisles – picking whole, fresh, ingredients.
You’ve done all three things and still not finding balance?
There may be a deeper issue, and testing your microbiome may be the next step. If this is the case – book a 15 minutes Q&A to chat more about if microbiome testing is a good option for you.
Dr. Ashley Damm
Naturopathic Doctor – Vancouver, BC