Do you eat germs? Yes, you do. Lots of them. So, why aren’t you sick? Because your immune system fights them off and keeps you healthy. And many germs are actually healthy. These bacteria, yeasts, and viruses — of which there are around 100 trillion, up to 5 pounds in a healthy adult. These germs are also called the “gut microbiome” or “gut flora.” Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health and immunity. Seventy percent of the immune system lives in the gut.
So, what is the cause of sickness? Is it the presence of germs? Not really. You can get sick when you don’t have enough healthy germs. To stay healthy there are a number of things you can do to help your gut health and your immune system.
A combination of both can be extremely beneficial. These foods are great sources for improved gut health: fermented vegetables, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kefir.
Probiotics feed on nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics. This is how you feed the healthy bacteria and help them multiply. Prebiotic-rich foods include asparagus, apples, bananas, leeks, onions, garlic, whole grains, jicama, and flaxseeds. The more your diet is plant-based, the healthier your gut.
Eating a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes. The standard Western diet, which is high in sugar and fat, negatively affects the gut microbiome. In turn, this can influence the brain and behavior. There are indications that the artificial sweetener aspartame increases the number of some bacterial strains that are linked with diabetes and heart disease as they negatively impact blood sugar
Studies show that psychological and environmental stress can negatively affect gut health. And lack of sleep disrupts the circadian rhythm. Some stress management techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, talk to me. I can help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors in the United States prescribe around 30% of antibiotics unnecessarily. Antibiotics are damaging to the gut microbiome and immunity, with some research reporting that even 6 months after their use, the gut still lacks important beneficial bacteria. There is also great concern that antibiotic overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Regular exercise contributes to good heart health, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Research has also suggested that it may also improve gut health, by increasing species diversity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week.
Disinfectants can reduce the variety and amount of healthy organisms in your gut. Use soap and water whenever possible.
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