Focus on the tiny, invisible community of microbes in your body for better overall heatlh.
There are lots of things you can do to ensure both your gut and skin microbiome are in tip-top condition. Focusing on microbiome health from a holistic point of view will give you overall health benefits. Glowing skin, clearer mind, happier mood, higher energy levels…it’s all connected to the microbiome.
The first thing you want to do is swap out the sugary and fast food for slow food. Fermented foods are full of beneficial bacteria to help your microbiome and digestive system.
Back in the day, the fermentation technique was commonly used out of practicality – they didn’t have fridges so needed a way to preserve food and drink.
A natural process, fermentation occurs when microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs like sugar and starch into alcohol or acids. It also promotes the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) to help improve digestion, weight loss, immunity and gut health.
Fermented foods include:
- Miso Soup
- Pickled Beetroot
To make the most out of probiotic food and supplements, you should add a lot of prebiotic food into your diet as well.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibres and natural sugars that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, giving the good bacteria an environment to thrive in. They work in tandem with probiotics. Think of it as fertiliser for your gut microbiome.
Prebiotic food has also been shown to help with metabolic health and boosting immunity. Although better eaten raw, you will still get some prebiotic benefits after cooking, especially if you eat again when cooled as the fibres regain their strength.
You can find prebiotics in a variety of food including:
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Onions & leeks
- Unripe/green bananas
- Shitake mushrooms
- Apple cider vinegar
- Cayenne Pepper
Your gut microbiomes love a diet high in fibre and complex carbs. Swap out the white rice, crackers and white bread carbs for the more nutritional brown varieties. The less processed, the better.
Food is the foundation for a healthy microbiome, but for optimal microbiome health, a high-quality probiotic is also a must. Also try to take your probiotics on an empty stomach as acid levels are lower then. Here are some tips for choosing the best one:
1. Go for Quality over Quantity
Many people think the key to picking a good probiotic is getting one with diverse strains and the highest number of CFUs (colony-forming units). This is not actually the case – what really matters is the quality of the strains. Not all probiotic strains are created equal, so you want to choose one that is well researched and commensal to the microbiome site you are targeting.
2. Check the fine print
Check the expiration date and make sure the bacteria is live and that the name of the exact strains are used in their formula. Read the other ingredients on the label. Some commercial probiotic supplements contain undesirable binders and fillers, including lactose or cornstarch that may cause a reaction, like gas and bloating, if you are sensitive to these ingredients.
As well as diet and supplements, there are a number of other lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your microbiome.
The benefits of exercise on the skin are well known, but research indicates that it also enhances the functions of your gut bacteria too. It is linked to increases in the number of beneficial microbial species and enriching microbial diversity as well as enhanced short-chain fatty acid synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism.
As well as nourishing your body with good food and probiotics, one of the best things you can do for your microbiome is to simply learn to relax. Stress can alter your gut microbiome, upsetting the balance of the good bacteria and inviting the bad ones in.
With the population tipped towards pathogenic bacteria and the diversity reduced, it’s a downward spiral as your troubled gut sends signals to your brain.
Intermittent fasting is restricting your eating to a specific window of hours each day. It’s a popular weight loss strategy but it’s also shown to benefit your gut and microbiome too. Research indicates that it benefits “cell cleaning” and inflammatory bowel issues like IBS.
Take antibiotics with caution
Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. One week- long course of antibiotics can change your gut microbiome for up to a year.
Don’t forget about your oral health
Your microbiome is comprised of not only the bacteria in your gut but also your skin and mouth; the oral and skin microbiomes are two often overlooked aspects to our overall health, despite the fact that your skin and mouth have millions of bacteria, and losing balance in these areas of the microbiome is associated with dental, throat, and skin issues. Many conventional, toxic products that we use on our skin and teeth disrupt this microbiome.
Gentler Skincare Regime
Double cleansing, chemical peels and exfoliating have all become part of many people’s skincare routines, but is all this skin stripping is messing with our microbiome and weakening our skin barrier.
Cleanse only at night, and avoid harsh ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, and keep exfoliating down to a couple of times a week. Daily exfoliation can leave your skin red, flaky and dry.
Also consider gentler skincare options that are kinder on the microbiome, and work to keep your skin at optimum pH levels, for example skincare enriched with prebiotics and probiotics.