Two years ago Feige and I did a DNA test which gave us insight into how our genes affect everything from diet to exercise to health. But it turns out if you really want to understand your body and health, it’s not your DNA you should be looking at, it’s your microbiome.
You can tell more about someone from examining their gut microbes than from DNA. In fact, even between family members and the people you live with and eat with, there are big differences in each person’s gut microbiome. So, although Feige and I are sisters, and according to our DNA test share 92% of the same genetic material, our bodies react differently to what we put in them and our Microbiomes would unlikely be anything alike. It is because our microbiomes are so unique that a one size fits all approach to food, diet and lifestyle doesn’t work. To get the best out of what you eat, you need to find what works for your body.
On a recent episode of the Deliciously Ella podcast, Ella and Mathew Mills discussed the 5 pillars of health with input from various experts. One of those pillars is gut health and they had Tim Spector, a leader in gut health explain that our microbiome is like a virtual organ that produces thousands of chemicals which are important for our digestion, immune system. Our microbiome interacts with our brain and can affect emotions, hunger and more.
Despite the complexity and individuality of our microbiomes, there are common things we can all do to improve gut health and microbiome which is known as our second brain. Below are some of the ways to improve gut health, as explained on this podcast.
1. Diversify your diet
Diversity of food is important to gut health. Eating more than 30 different plants a week can have a massive effect on the health of your gut. Plants are not just fruits and vegetables but also grains, herbs, spices, seeds and nuts.
2. Eat a mainly largely plant-based which is high in fibre
Fibre is the microbiomes favourite food. We can’t digest dietary fibre, the sole purpose is to feed the gut microbiome.
3. Eat Fermented foods
A small amount of fermented foods like Kefir, Kombucha and Kimchi is good for the microbiome.
4. Focus on high polyphenal foods (antioxidants)
These are chemicals that all plants have as defence mechanisms to fight off sunshine or infections and are like rocket fuel for your gut microbes. They’re found in dark coloured fruits and vegetables as well as in nuts, seeds, coffee, green tea, olive oil and red wine.
5. Avoid grazing
Microbes like a period of fasting so move away from eating every 2-3 hours. At night when you sleep and are fasting, your gut community comes out and cleans the gut lining. Instead of eating the food in your gut they eat the mucus lining which has sugars which microbes love. When they nibble on it, it keeps your microbe clean. However, restrictive or yo-yo dieting can negatively impact your microbiome.
6. Prioritize sleep
Not only is this when you allow microbes to clean your gut lining, Sleep is the most important thing you can do to prevent disease and function better. When you go to sleep, particularly deep sleep the brain starts a cleansing process which washes away all the metabolic processes that have been building up during the day. One of the toxic proteins sleep removes is beta amaloid which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, which Feige discussed in detail here.
Exercise has been shown to improve gut health. Look at exercise as movement and find something you love doing.
8. Avoid antibiotics
We use too many antibiotics and in some people they can wipe out the microbiome completely
9. Avoid highly processed foods and artificial sweeteners
There’s evidence that sugar is better for you than artificial sweeteners. Your body doesn’t know what to do artificial chemicals and struggles to break them down making you more likely to put on weight or develop diabetes. This includes emulsifies and other chemicals found in highly processed foods.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.