The microbiome has gotten a lot of attention in the science community over the last several years. But rather than being just another health buzzword, a healthy, diverse microbiome has been a key pillar of health for generations. We know that diet and gut health are important for overall health; the reason for this often comes back to the microbiome.
But what is the microbiome?
For something so complex and important, “microbiome” is actually pretty easy to define. Those trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi on and in your body? That’s your microbiome.
It can be a little disconcerting, thinking about the countless microbes crawling around that you can’t see, but they’re actually there to help you. These microbes are a normal part of a healthy life, something we’ve been living with for millennia.
Most microbes are found in your intestines and on your skin. They’re also found in your mouth, ear, nose, and throat. Together, they function like an extra organ in your body, which plays a huge role in your health—especially gut health.
How the microbiome supports your health
Your microbiome starts to take shape when you are born. As you grow, it diversifies and gets to work supporting various systems in your body. Some of its specific functions include:
Helping with digestion, especially digesting fiber
Supporting a healthy immune system
Supporting the central nervous system
No two microbiomes are the same, but one thing all microbiomes benefit from is the right diet.
Establishing a microbiome-friendly diet
Consuming a high-fiber diet is one of the best ways to support your microbiome. If you’re looking to support your gut health, try some of these tips.
Make variety your goal. Nature provided us many ways to get the nutrients we need, and our bodies benefit from the variety. A wide range of beans, fruit, and legumes are especially helpful for gut health because of their high fiber content.
Keep prebiotic foods handy. While we’re on the subject of fiber, make sure you’re throwing prebiotic foods in the mix. Prebiotics are most commonly certain types of fiber that help the body grow and sustain healthy bacteria. These can be found in foods like apples, bananas, asparagus, and oats.
Prebiotics can also be types of amazing phytonutrients, such as polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant nutrients found in edible plants. Many are responsible for the bright, beautiful colors of plant flowers and fruits. They also play a pivotal role in plant immunity, and these benefits can transcend to the microbiome when consumed.
Don’t be afraid of the fermented stuff. The healthy bacteria found in foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut help support the bacterial environment in your gut.
Fermented foods can also contain types of health-promoting postbiotics, which are beneficial byproducts of healthy bacteria.
Choose whole grains. White-flour products are stripped of fiber and other vital nutrients. They’re also everywhere. So you may need to dig a little to find the whole-wheat foods—but it will be worth it. Brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, and oatmeal are all good sources of whole grains.
Eat all the plants. You knew vegetables would show up on this list eventually. Vegetables help support normal, healthy cholesterol levels, something your microbiome will always appreciate. Try to get around five servings of vegetables each day (even if you have to get a little creative to sneak them in).
Take a probiotic supplement. A probiotic supplement like Probionic Plus can help support a healthy diversity of bacteria in your gut. Bios 7 is also a good option for those looking for extra microbiome support.
As you can see from these tips, a Mediterranean or vegetarian diet can be a very effective way to get the healthy variety your microbiome needs.
If overhauling your diet and eating habits isn’t in the cards for you, don’t worry. Your microbiome likes small lifestyle adjustments, too. Here are a few ideas to try.
Switch out some snacks for fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Take a look at your snack cupboard and see if you can swap some of your processed treats with whole foods. If bananas and carrot sticks don’t appeal to you, feel free to dress them up a little! Dip your veggies in hummus or peanut butter. Embrace your inner millennial and enjoy some avocado toast. Mix fruit and nuts into Greek yogurt. Use fruits and veggies to add a pop of color—and nutrition—to anything you like to eat.
Leave the peeler in the drawer. The crunchy sweetness might be your favorite part of the apple, but your microbiome loves the extra fiber and nutrients found in the skin. So save yourself some time and effort and skip peeling foods like apples, potatoes, and zucchini. (Just be sure to wash them first.)
Whole wheat, please. The next time you order a sandwich or fill up on bread appetizers, take the whole-wheat or multigrain option if it’s offered. Chances are, you’ll be surprised how good those extra nutrients can be.
Supplement with fiber. Increasing your fiber intake benefits your body in a lot of ways. Getting all the fiber you need from diet can be tricky though, so supplementing with a product like Unicity Balance can help you fill in the gaps. Its fiber matrix includes bioactive plant compounds, polysaccharides, and micronutrients that support optimal digestion.
Your microbiome does a lot for you. With the right diet, it can do even more to benefit your health. It’s never too late to make changes—no matter how small—to support your microbiome.