Many people think that bacteria are bad, and certainly, some bacteria can cause illness. But our bodies actually depend on the millions of beneficial bacteria that call our bodies home. These bacteria live within us and our health is dependent on their health. Collectively, these different bacteria are known as our microbiome (and there are several sub-microbiomes within that – our focus is on arguably the most important one, the gut microbiome).
The health of our gut microbiome determines the health of our digestive and immune systems, which is why it’s paramount that we take good care of it. A large percentage of illnesses and diseases can be traced back to our gut, so having a balanced, healthy microbiome is absolutely key to good health.
There are a number of factors that determine the health of your microbiome, including your environment and lifestyle, how many hours of sleep you get, whether or not you exercise, and whether or not you are dealing with stress.
However, the most important factor that contributes to your microbiome and determines its health is your diet. Thus, the best and fastest way to rebalance your microbiome and significantly improve your overall health is to change your eating patterns and eat healthier. A healthy diet that supports the good bacteria in your microbiome and effectively fights bad bacteria will dramatically improve your health – and it can do so in a week or less!
The 4 R’s
The 4 R’s are a great way to approach changing your diet to help you restore your gut health. Here’s a quick overview of how it works.
The first step is to remove unhealthy foods from your diet. These are the foods that damage the good bacteria, thus allowing the bad bacteria to overwhelm your digestive system. That means steering clear of processed foods and fast foods, and cutting back or eliminating caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and bad fats.
- Processed foods – they are quickly absorbed into your small intestine, so the microbes in your gut don’t actually “eat”. Instead, they start “eating” the cells of your small intestine’s wall, thus leading to a leaky gut syndrome.
- Refined sugar – refined sugar (aka white sugar) also leads to the inflammation of your intestinal wall and it can cause diabetes. Therefore, lower your sugar intake and avoid added sugars (sodas, canned foods, packaged snacks).
- Hydrogenated fats – hydrogenated fats are very harmful to your overall health and there are a lot of them in fried foods and processed foods, so you should definitely avoid those.
- Refined vegetable oils – avoid vegetable oils such as canola, soybean and corn, but instead stick to the healthy fats.
Repair and Restore
Only after you’ve stopped putting unhealthy food into your body can you start repairing your gut. Depending on the severity, this may require medication, but for most, you can do it naturally, through the use of prebiotics and probiotics. For more serious gut issues, this might mean adding in supplements that can help you get the recommended daily amounts of each in order to maximize their effects.
Replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Implement other daily habits that help promote good digestion and good health overall.
- Vegetables – make sure you eat all kinds of vegetables at least four of five times a day, as they are great sources of prebiotic fiber, have an anti-inflammatory effect and are rich with phytonutrients that significantly lower triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The best vegetables to include are broccoli, spinach, kale, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, leeks, asparagus, peas, squashes, onions, garlic and seaweeds.
- Fruit – fruit contains a lot of antioxidants that help prevent cancer and improve brain health. Some fruits also have an anti-inflammatory effect and they provide your microbiome with prebiotic fiber that supports its health. Good fruits to add to your diet are apples, pears, oranges, nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pomegranate, and pink and red grapefruit.
- Herbs and spices – flavor your meals with herbs and spices instead of salt. Oregano, thyme, ginger, and turmeric are especially good.
- Healthy oils and fats – switch to olive oil or coconut oil for cooking and baking whenever possible
- Fish – rich with omega-3 fatty acids, try replacing some of the beef and pork you eat with fish like salmon, cod, herring, and even canned light tuna.
- Whole grains and beans – eat black beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, black rice, quinoa, chickpeas, buckwheat and amaranth.
- Fermented foods – fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, pickles, tempeh, kombucha, and sauerkraut, are very rich in prebiotics and greatly help balance your microbiome by stimulating good bacteria.
What More Can You Do to Strengthen Your Microbiome?Apart from making these changes in your diet that are guaranteed to start improving and rebalancing your microbiome right away, you should make sure you get some light exercise each day, get enough sleep, and reduce stress as much as possible.