Our gut microbiome and why you need to focus it

Maybe you’ve heard about the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut — but do you know why they matter, and what role they play in your overall health? What role do they play in preventing disease? That’s what I’ll be discussing in this article.

The intricacy of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a recent hot topic. Several current studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health and skin conditions.

The term “gut microbiome’ refers to refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. Some gut microbiomes are tremendously valuable in the gut which can enhance our immune system, improve symptoms of depression, help combat obesity, and provide other benefits.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

High stress levels, lack of sleep, eating processed/sugary foods, and taking long term antibiotics can all damage our gut health. This may affect our health, such as our brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight, hormone levels, and ability to absorb nutrients.

Some of the most common signs an unhealthy gut may manifest itself include:

High processed/sugary diet

A diet high in processed foods and high amount of added sugars can decrease the number of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to several diseases.

Sleep instabilities or constant fatigue

An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep instabilities such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well.

Skin irritation

Skin conditions such as acne may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet irritate the skin and cause conditions such as acne.

Upset stomach

Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.

A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.

Things you can do to improve your gut health

The millions of microbes in our gut play a huge role in basic functions that directly affects our overall health. These microbes contribute to our metabolism, control inflammation, help absorb nutrients from food, produce vitamins, and protect our bodies against viruses, bacteria, and infections and more. These functions have both a direct and indirect effect on our daily functions, RE: Think-How we feel

What you eat can be an effective tool to change the microbiota in our gut. To get “good” bacteria eat fermentable fiber, which can be found in foods like wheat, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, lentils, beans, onions, and garlic.

Fermentable fibers make their way down to the gut microbiota in the digestive tract because they don’t get digested by our enzymes.

1. Make plant-based and whole foods a priority! The fiber-rich foods are important to feed the gut bacteria and keep your digestion regular. A diet high in fiber has been shown to contribute tremendously to a healthy gut microbiome. Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods that you eat can contribute to better gut health.

2.   Discover prebiotic foods — they’re rich in the type of fiber that the bacteria in your gut feeds on. Examples include garlic, onion, and Jerusalem artichoke.

3.  Heap on the probiotic foods — they’re naturally rich in healthy probiotic bacteria and are usually found in fermented food. Examples include kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, etc.

4.  Avoid refined sugar — this sugar feeds the “bad” bacteria that can lead to obesity and other health problems, starting in the gut.

5.  Limit the use of antibiotics — these can kill off the infection, but they also kill the “good” bacteria while they’re at it.

Bottom Line: Our gut has an enormous influence on complete body health. A healthy gut correlates with a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion. There are lifestyle changes you can make to positively affect your gut health and overall health as a result.


Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN