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Wellness with Natalie: Nurturing your good gut bacteria

What the heck is my microbiome?

You have about 25 feet of gastrointestinal (GI) tract which is responsible for digesting and absorbing nutrients from foods you eat. Your GI tract also helps to eliminate waste products from your body. But did you know that your GI tract also plays a massive role in your immune system and in the regulation of your neurotransmitters (the messengers to your brain)?

The walls of your intestines are covered with millions of hair-like cellular microstructures called villi and microvilli. Living there is a group of micro-organisms called intestinal microflora or microbiota - your microbiome. Here’s another did you know for you: Did you know that there are estimated to be 10 times more gut bacteria cells in your intestinal tract than the 10 trillion cells making up your body?

This “good gut bacteria” provides us with a healthy digestive system, strong immune system support and also plays a role in the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that affect our mood. It is estimated that about 90% of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate our mood) is made in our gut. So you see how important it is to take care of your microbiome!

(Image: Shutterstock)

Your microbiome can be compromised or even killed by stress, certain medication, toxins in our diet (also associated with genetically modified - GMO - foods) and exposure to harmful micro-organisms’ “bad bacteria”. Healthy intestinal microflora is also challenged in people whose diets are low in fibre. Some studies also show a steady decline in friendly intestinal flora in both men and women as they age. When intestinal microflora is compromised, the digestive and immune systems don’t function as well as they should.

How do you care for your microbiome? Eat a diet consisting mainly of real foods, ensuring enough fibre. Eat organic, non-GMO whenever possible. Try not to overmedicate, talk to your doctor about this - ask if there are more natural ways to manage an illness that may reduce your need for medication. Find ways to alleviate or mitigate stress, such as deep breathing or meditation. Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchee. Supplement with a multi-strain probiotic containing live bacterial cultures. Ensure you eat prebiotic foods such as raw garlic and raw or cooked onions.

Originally published on Loop

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