3 Ways to Feed Your Mi­cro­biome

In­creas­ing your in­take of foods rich in healthy mi­crobes is the best way to re­pair your gut— and over­all health

Better Nutrition - - CONTENT - /// BY EMILY A. KANE, ND, LAc

How to keep your good gut bugs healthy with pre­bi­otics.

Q I’ve heard a lot about the mi­cro­biome lately. Could you tell me in plain English what that is and why it’s im­por­tant? — Se­bas­tian F., Mt. Ver­non, Ill.


The mi­cro­biome is made up of the ge­netic ma­te­rial found in the tril­lions of cells— in­clud­ing bac­te­ria, viruses, and fungi— that live in­side our bod­ies and on our skin.

These for­eign bugs out­num­ber our own cells ten­fold, and the largest con­cen­tra­tion re­sides in the gut. Our syn­er­gis­tic re­la­tion­ship with these crit­ters is vi­tal to nor­mal health. The micro­organ­isms that live in­side the hu­man gas­troin­testi­nal tract— also known as gut fl ora or mi­cro­biota— amount to as much as 4 pounds of biomass, and each per­son has a unique mix of species. This com­mu­nity of mi­crobes plays crit­i­cal roles in di­ges­tion and im­mu­nity, and also aff ects think­ing and be­hav­ior. Dis­tur­bances in the mi­cro­biota’s bal­ance are thought to be a cause of nu­mer­ous dis­eases.

More About Healthy Gut Bac­te­ria

Each of us har­bors any­where from 10 tril­lion to 100 tril­lion mi­cro­bial cells in a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship that, in a nor­mal, healthy state, suits both them and us. Es­ti­mates vary, but there could be more than 1,000 diff er­ent species of micro­organ­isms mak­ing up the hu­man mi­cro­biota. At birth, in­fants get a wal­lop of pro­bi­otics when they pass through the birth canal. Ba­bies de­liv­ered by C- sec­tion are at sig­nifi cantly higher risk for al­ler­gies and im­mune dys­func­tion later in life be­cause they miss out on this process.

Mi­cro­bial di­ver­sity is affi li­ated with a healthy im­mune re­sponse. As we age, mi­cro­bial di­ver­sity wanes. There­fore, it’s vi­tal to nour­ish your gut every day. Here are three sim­ple ways to en­cour­age a thriv­ing mi­cro­biota.

1. PRE­BI­OTICS Pre­bi­otics are sub­stances that help feed pro­bi­otics, the healthy bac­te­ria in the gut. Some of the best pre­bi­otic foods are ji­cama, as­para­gus, dan­de­lion greens, Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes, gar­lic, onions, and leeks. These veg­eta­bles are teem­ing with benefi cial pre­bi­otic fi bers. Also, start eat­ing more foods rich in polyphe­nols, which have pre­bi­otic prop­er­ties. Some great choices: pome­gran­ate, olive oil, baobab, fresh herbs, and berries and other red and pur­ple fruits and veg­gies.

Pre­bi­otic sup­ple­ments typ­i­cally con­tain XOS ( xy­looligosac­cha­rides), GOS (gal ac too li go sac­cha­rides ), and/ or­inul in, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring polysac­cha­ride found in the roots of plants. Some pre­bi­otics may cause gas and bloat­ing ini­tially, so start slowly and ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent brands to find one that works best for you. XOS may cause the least amount of di­ges­tive up­set among the three.

2. PRO­BI­OTICS A few of the top pro­bi­otic foods are sauerkraut, miso, tem­peh, Ro­que­fort cheese ( in mod­er­a­tion), kim­chi, kom­bucha, yo­gurt, and co­conut kefi r. If you’re not al­ready tak­ing a pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ment, start us­ing one. You may need to ro­tate brands un­til you fi nd one that agrees with your sys­tem.

3. EN­ZYMES Our mi­cro­biota also play a key role in syn­the­siz­ing en­zymes, which are present in all liv­ing an­i­mal and plant cells. They’re nec­es­sary for every chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in the body, and they are the cat­a­lysts that al­low food to be di­gested. There­fore, it’s im­por­tant to make sure you’re get­ting enough en­zymes from food and/ or sup­ple­ments.

I’m not a fan of an all- raw diet, but I tell my pa­tients to eat some raw food every day to help main­tain an ad­e­quate sup­ply of en­zymes. Sprouts are one of the rich­est sources of en­zymes, be­cause en­zymes are what makes seeds sprout in the fi rst place. En­zymes are also pro­duced in the sali­vary glands, so be sure to chew your food well. A veg­e­tar­ian en­zyme sup­ple­ment, taken be­fore meals, can also help.

Do you have a ques­tion for Dr. Kane? Email it to [email protected] aim­me­dia. com with “Ask the ND” in the sub­ject line.

Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc, has a pri­vate naturopathic prac­tice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her hus­band and daugh­ter. She is the au­thor of two books on nat­u­ral health, in­clud­ing Man­ag­ing Menopause Nat­u­rally. Visit her on­line at dremi­lykane. com.

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