Normally, we are very superficial and we tend to concern ourselves more when we have external problems, rather than internal problems. For example, wouldn’t you be more scared that you scarred your face rather than having poor gut health?
It’s funny when you think about it. We got it the wrong way, it is so much more important to take care of our inner organs which will help the maintenance and recovery of our whole body.
How much effort have you put in to take care of your GUT (Gastrointestinal tract)? Our gut compared to everything else in the body ‘combined’, has 10 times the amount of cells. Can you believe that?
That’s HUGE. If that isn’t a sign that we need to take care of this super factory that we have inside of us. I don’t know what is.
Why is our Gut Bacteria crucial for our well being?
The importance of gut health has long been realised. Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine once said “All diseases begin in the gut!”
Now, latest research studies have shown that not only is our gut linked to diseases, it is even connected to our brain, hence the name given to our gut “The second brain“. Wow, HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE??
GUT-BRAIN AXIS – Microbially-produced neurotransmitters and other metabolites reach the brain directly through the vagus nerve!
This means that who we are, how we react, and how we feel are dependent by the quality of bacteria in our gut? Yes, kind of.
Dr. Michael Gregor has some really nice evidence based videos on how we can improve mood through diet. I highly recommend that you check them out after reading this blog. But the good news is – Vegetarians and vegans have significantly better depression, anxiety, stress scale. In other words, plant powered people are happier!
- Plant-based diet and mood
- Improving mood through diet
- Gut feelings: probiotics & mental health
- The role of gut microbiome in autism
If you want to indulge in a philosophical thought for a moment, think about – are we really in control of ourselves, or are our gut microbes more in control of us?
Fancy that as a conversation topic over coffee.
Getting back to the point of the article, the gut is the most amazing thing ever! This led me to pay $350 to test my own microbiome by giving a local company called Microba my stool sample.
I received my test results, i booked a consultation with a Dietitian (why not learn from others in the same profession right, always intrigued by how other dietitians talk the talk), to find out the practical tips of what I can do to improve my microbiota.
The Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Your Gut Bacteria
If you are a video person, here is a short video with an overview of the following 5 points
Number 1 – Microbial composition during early development is crucial
We used to think that the uterus and fetus are sterile, and the first time a baby encounters any microbes is upon birth. Increasing evidence on suggest that human microbiota is seeded before birth.
After birth, the microbial diversity increases dramatically. Because of this initial colonisation of microbiota runs in parallel with immune system maturation and brain development, the first 1000 days are considered critical for a newborn.
After the baby is weaned and starts eating food, this is when the microbiota converges toward an adult-like microbiota. By 3-5 years old, the composition of the gut microbiota resembles that of an adult and is relatively stable thereafter.
Alteration in the development of the gut microbiota of a newborn has been demonstrated to predispose to diseases later in life in a few studies. Although we are waiting for more research to uncover the full effect of initial microbiota development, it can be agreed upon that setting up a good initial gut ecosystem during the first 1000 days is critical.
If you are reading this post, you have past the age of altering the initial microbial colonisation (sorry!). We’ll get to how you can still improve it with lifestyle later. But now, how can you set up a good initial gut ecosystem for your babies?
Number 2 – Setting up a good initial gut ecosystem
To ensure a good initial microbial colonisation process, the mum plays the most important role (oh pressure, ladies).
The major factors that contribute to microbial colonisation include
- Maternal microbiota
- Mode of birth
- Preterm birth
- Antibiotic treatment.
We are at a very exciting time. It is only recently that scientists discovered microbial genes in the placenta, which suggests the possibility of maternal-offspring exchange of microbiota.
We still know very little about the microbes that traverse the placenta, whether they persist in the infant and what roles they play exactly. Nevertheless, ladies should aim to have a high quality gut microbiota before and during pregnancy.
Mode of birth
The first major microbial exposure occurs during birth. Naturally born infants are colonised by the vaginal and fecal bacteria coming from the mother. Infants born via C-section are instead colonised with microbes associated with the skin and the hospital environment.
It is suggested that the microbiota composition in these infants may remain disturbed for months or even years. So it is crucial that if a baby has to be born via C-section, he or she gets a vaginal swab to mimic the birth canal environment.
A major source for bacterial colonisation of the infant gut is through bacteria in the mother’s milk, and it has been proposed that this mode of colonisation plays a major role in the child’s health status.
The milk microbiota is reported to contain more than 700 species of bacteria and an abundance of complex oligosaccharides with prebiotic activity, stimulating the growth of specific bacterial groups.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that mums try to breastfeed newborns to provide the best support of infant microbial colonisation. If breastfeeding is not possible, choosing the right formula becomes important. Nowadays, some formula companies are taking into consideration the critical gut colonisation process and are trying to mimic the breast milk by adding pre- and probiotics. It is encouraged that mums choose such formula as well as provide newborns with additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.
This might sound scary, but in preterm infants, the microbiota is characterized by reduced diversity and higher levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria compared with full-term infants.
Therefore, pre-term babies need extra care. Breastfeeding is highly encouraged, so are additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.
Antibiotic treatment can dramatically disturb an adult’s gut environment, let alone a fragile newborn. Even short-term antibiotic treatment can significantly affect the development of the infant gut microbiota.
As a result, antibiotic treatment should be avoided as much as possible. If necessary, make sure the baby get plenty of breast milk and additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.
I thought you might be scared at this point, but don’t be! Try your best to prevent and restore the gut ecosystem for your baby by using the following guidelines!
Number 3 – Are Pro-biotics Effective?
Well, you’re either going to love me or hate me with this next part I’m going to say. Unless you have been sick for a very long time, or had a long streak of antibiotics, or have irritable bowel syndromes such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation or gas, probiotic supplements for the healthy people out there could be a waste of money.
1. Most bacterial strains are likely dead by the time we ingest them due to long/inappropriate storage before purchase.
2. Most of the probiotics don’t even make it down there, and even if it did, it is very hard for our gut ecosystem to accept new strands of bacteria and stay.
As a result, the effects of probiotics are most often transient. Remember what was said before, the gut microbiota is relatively stable after 3-5 years old. Unless you take probiotics on a daily basis, the new bacterial strains are unlikely to stay in your gut.
Number 4 – How to improve your gut health?
Once the gut microbiota is established after 3-5 years old, the composition is relatively stable throughout adult life, but, BUT…
The gut environment can be still be altered as a result of bacterial infections, antibiotic treatment, lifestyle, surgical, and a long-term change in diet.
So save your money, and work on your diet and lifestyle instead!
The best way to grow healthy bacteria is to eat plant-based fibres. Dietary fibres are the preferred fuel for healthy bacteria and they often serve as beneficial natural prebiotics! No need to spend money when you can get it from nature!
In return, the healthy bacteria thriving on the plant fuel happily produce short-chain fatty acid and protect against allergic inflammation, heart diseases, and so on.
What’s the best way of getting lots of dietary fibre?
Eat a variety of whole foods from core food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds). Most importantly, choose different colours, aim for a beautiful food palette! If you don’t know yet, this is the reason that we are called Vegan Palette – Eating a variety of colourful foods is our philosophy!
Number 5 – High bacterial richness – What? Why? How?
Lastly, you want aim for a high gut bacterial richness. Let me explain why.
Studies found that people tend to fall into one of two groups:
High gut “bacterial richness” group: those with a variety of types of gut bacteria
Low gut “bacterial richness” group: those with a few types of gut bacteria
What’s the difference?
Compared to high bacterial richness individuals, those with low bacterial richness have more body fat, insulin resistance and increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as higher levels of inflammatory markers.
How do make sure you are in the high gut “bacterial richness” group?
Simple – increase our fruit and vegetable intake. This seemingly simple approach has been associated with high bacterial richness in a number of studies.
Don’t try to take a shortcut by just taking fibre-containing supplements because they don’t seem to increase richness! The complexity of whole foods such as grains could support a variety of bacterial types, increasing our gut bacterial richness. Remember, real foods don’t just contain fibre, but a variety of beneficial phytonutrients!
By the way, Dr. Michael Gregor from Nutritionfacts.org has an in-depth video explaining the original research that showed how whole grains can increase our gut bacterial richness! I recommend you watch it later – Gut microbiome – Strike it rich with whole grains.
This is important because your body will perform at the lowest level of healthy bacteria, and not fully utilising the capabilities of the bacteria with high strands. It’s like playing footy, New Zealand is one of the best teams because all the players work together. It is the same with our gut, we need our healthy bacteria to work together, and to do that, we need an even spread of healthy bacteria, not too much and not too little.
There you have it. How important it is to take care of gut, from before birth to every single day of our adult life! The big and small decisions we make, determine how healthy our gut is. We are what we eat!
As a final reminder, keep this timeline in mind!
Thank you for reading all this, we hope it has helped you understand how you can take better care of the gut microbiota from today. We’ll leave you with an inspirational quote:
“The biggest influence you can have on the state of your gut lining, and a healthy microbiome, is your diet—which you control.” –Jeannette Hyde
Let us know how your gut health journey goes from here. Comment below what you liked about this article, and what topic you would like us to cover next!
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