Gut health and the microbiome have, in recent years, taken center stage within the health and wellness worlds, so we wouldn’t be surprised at this point if you’ve already heard the phrase your gut is your second brai”. But what does that actually mean, and if it really does function as the body’s second brain, how do we make sure it’s operating in top form?
Meet the Microbiome
Improving your gut health starts with understanding the body’s microbiome and the ways in which your body digests food. The term microbiome was coined in 2001 by Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and microbiologist Joshua Lederber to describe the approximately 100 trillion microorganisms or microbes that exist within the human body. It’s composed of all the viruses, bacteria, and single-celled microorganisms that reside in and on our bodies. These microbes live on our skin, in our mouths, and within the gut, and according to Ann Boroch, author of The Candida Cur, contribute to our metabolic functions, protect against pathogens, and support our entire immune system. These microbes are essential to maintaining healthy digestion, building immunity, and producing and regulating vitamins within our bodies.
Studies show that there are over 1000 different types of bacteria strains living in our bodies, most of them functioning to maintain gut, heart, brain, and immune health. While these microbes are all over and within our bodies, the majority of them live within our gu where they receive a constant supply of nutrients and a nice warm, low-oxygen environment in which to thrive. When all of these gut inhabitants are living in harmony with one another via a healthy yeast-free diet, your microbiome is balanced and your gut can digest food properly.
How is Gut Health Harmed?
You can’t talk about the gut without talking about candida, too. Candida is the term for a group of yeast organisms that have lived in our digestive tracts alongside thousands of bacteria, viruses, and archaea for millions of years. Candida is just one of the many organisms that comprise our microbiomes. Unfortunately, poor diets, overuse of antibiotics, increased stress, and poor hydration cause healthy bacteria to die off and an overgrowth of yeast--candida-- canoccur and the result turns an otherwise innocuous microbe into a harmful pathogen that causes digestive issues, acne, sinus problems, allergies, brain fog, anxiety, fatigue,and many other yeast overgrowth-related illnesses
Restoring Gut Health
If you find yourself bloated after meals, having general stomach or digestion issues, or feel constantly lethargic, there’s a decent chance you might have a diet that fosters yeast build-up and your gut is probably suffering! One of the first steps to reclaiming gut health is by modifying your diet to stop feeding the yeast in your body and to keep it from growing. Here’s a list of the main food groups you should limit as you begin to heal your microbiome:
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Excessive Animal Proteins
- Refined Carbohydrates (such as refined grains)
- Refined Sugars
- Excessive Dairy
- Trans Fats
On the other hand, consuming fermented foods-- which are rich in probiotics and help to fight off active yeast in the body-- as well as eating lean, organic proteins and lots of green leafy vegetables will help to reduce amounts of inflammation within the gut. Here’s our favorite healthy gut go-to’s:
- Coconut kefir (coconut kefir isn’t dairy based which can trigger gut inflammation)
- Bone & Galangal broth (both of these are soothing to a compromised gut)
- Plants! Spinach, Arugula, Bok Choy, Kale, Rainbow Chard, and other green veggies provide the gut with prebiotic fiber needed to heal a gut that’s been inflamed.