I’m just going to come right out and drop an F bomb: FLORA!
Ever heard of it? Yes? No? Either way, you’ve come to the right place. If I’m being completely honest, gut flora is now officially referred to as gut microbiota, but for the purpose of this article’s opening sentence… I decided to turn back time.
No matter what you call it though, the microbes that reside in our intestines number in the trillions. Even more impressive? Two-thirds of our microbes are unique to us, meaning no one else in the world carries the same. And, these microbes are crucial to our health, supporting our immune system, acting as a barrier against disease and illness and they play a huge role in digestive function.
As you can see, the stuff is pretty important if we are seeking optimal health. There are so many simple ways we can both restore and nurture our gut microbes, imagine them to be tiny little people cruising around in your digestive tract, they need to be fed, loved and supported. Here’s what you need to know…
Lay off the processed foods.
The people (AKA gut microbes) have spoken, and they’ve literally had a guts full of preservatives, refined sugar, flavourings and poor quality, processed foods which are so typical of a modern western diet. These foods can have a huge impact on the balance of good and bad gut flora, creating an alien environment for our gut microbes and making it impossible for them to thrive.
Consider your antibiotic intake.
Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics have their place – their invention has saved countless lives. But when it comes to taking antibiotics, assess if you’re seeking a ‘quick fix’ (as they can be extremely effective) or if the ailment you’re experiencing can be addressed with professional nutritional and herbal support and some quality down time instead. One course of antibiotics can wipe out a huge number of gut microbes – which can then take over 12 months to restore – so picking your battles is essential.
Let them eat fresh.
Gut microbes flourish when fed a whole foods diet, especially those containing fibres known as fructans and cellulose, which are types of prebiotics. Foods such as celery, carrots with the skin on, broccoli, raw onion,leeks and asparagus all supply a healthy punch of these fibres to the gut. If you’re not already consuming these types of food, start to add them into your diet slowly to avoid any sudden bloating or gas.
You heard it here first; it’s time to chill out! Research suggests serotonin – a neurotransmitter that regulates our feelings of happiness – is considered to be one of many biochemical messengers that dictate our behavior and mood, directly impacting our gut microbiota. Basically, the gut and brain axis is the real deal – one affects the other and vice versa. Induced stress changes the body’s composition of gut microbiota and although no one is quite sure how, knowing that the relationship between the two exists, it makes sense to prioritise relaxation in order to boost your gut health too.
Our over-sterile western society makes it difficult for our gut microbes to make friends. The truth is, dirt is not your enemy so stop constantly using hand sanitiser, pat the cute puppy on the street without worrying about rushing off to wash your hands an open a window – subject yourself to bacteria from the outside world. I’m not saying you need to stop showering and roll in the gutter, but we aren’t meant to be sterile beings. It’s okay to get some dirt on your hands every now and then!