The Gut Microbiome: What It Is & Why It Matters

If 2018 was the year of intermittent fasting and 2019 is the year of gut health and the gut microbiome.

That’s right—bacteria are stealing the limelight this year! And for good reason: our bodies contain 100 trillion bacteria (known as the microbiome), meaning we are composed of more bacteria than cellsMany of these bacteria reside in our gut, and are sometimes referred to as the gut microbiota.

Bacteria might not sound like a good thing (food poisoning, anyone?), but these buggers are vital to our health. Here at GEM, we’re passionate about helping women live their happiest, healthiest lives, so read along to learn more about the gut microbiome and how to nurture a healthy gut.

Gut Health: Just a Fad or Here to Stay?

2019 might be coming to a close, but the conversation around gut health has no end in sight. In fact, the gut microbiome is so important to our health, many functional medicine doctors—such as best-selling author, Dr. Mark Hyman—begin treating their patients’ chronic health problems by healing the gut.

The most obvious signs of an out-of-balance gut are frequent gas, bloating, constipation and/or loose stools; however, research has linked poor gut health to obesity, diabetes, autoimmunity, depression, cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, eczema, asthma, and more.

Suffer from seasonal allergies or food sensitivities? Turns out, this could be a sign that your gut is in need of some serious TLC—an imbalance in the gut microbiome affects the entire immune system, allowing allergies to flare up. Additionally, a disruption in the gut microbiome can lead to increased permeability of the gut, i.e. Leaky Gut Syndrome. In essence, increased gut permeability allows large proteins to cross the gut lining and enter the bloodstream. These proteins are viewed by the body as invaders, causing an immune response and nasty, allergy-like symptoms. In fact, many suspected food intolerances and allergies are really just signs of a leaky gut!

Dear Bacteria, Let’s Be Friends

If you resonate with any of the above symptoms, then I’m sure you’re wondering “What can I do?” Have no fear, GEM is here to offer a few manageable, science-backed tips to get your microbiome in tip-top shape.

First on the agenda is to foster gut microbiome diversity. Although antibiotics have many beneficial uses (bye, bye strep!), they can wreak serious havoc on your gut—antibiotics not only target illness-causing pathogens, but also kill the beneficial microbes living within our gut. In fact, one round of antibiotics can decrease microbiome diversity by thirty-percent! Always consult with your doctor first, but if you need to use antibiotics, be sure to supplement with a high-quality probiotic. Look for a multi-strain probiotic with at least 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and a capsule that is pH resistant.

While limiting antibiotics and incorporating probiotics is important, research has shown that our diet has the largest effect on gut microbiome diversity. Probiotics might get most of the attention, but prebiotics are equally as important. Prebiotic fibers—which are found in plant-based foods such as beans, bananas, apple peels, onions and garlic—feed and diversify the good bacteria in our gut, and can even help reverse a leaky gut. Conversely, a diet high in meat, eggs and dairy helps bad bacteria proliferate (including those associated with Chrohn’s and ulcerative colitis) and decreases beneficial bacteria—yikes! The take-away? Eat plants, plants, and more plants!

Feed the good bacteria, not the bad! One of the best ways to deal with gut imbalance is through a clean, whole-foods diet that incorporates naturally probiotic-rich foods (think fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut). Certain foods—such as refined sugar, gluten, GMOs, factory-farmed meats and conventional dairy—all feed yucky yeast and bad bacteria, and should be eliminated. GEM is completely free from these gut-harming culprits, making it a fantastic addition to a gut-healing protocol.

Supplement with intention. The majority of Americans are deficient in anti-inflammatory omega 3s, and consume an excess of inflammatory omega 6s. Apart from its role in reducing inflammation, research shows that omega 3 fatty acids can help encourage healthy gut bacteria. Each of our GEM bites contains 100mg of omega 3s, sourced from gut-friendly chia and pumpkin seeds.

The above tips are great first-steps to encourage a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation. A functioning gut microbiome is essential to health, so never ignore symptoms of gut dysbiosis, and always work with your doctor when necessary.