As our busy schedules evolve, it is often difficult to consistently stay on a healthy and nutritious diet regimen. Sometimes, fast food becomes dominant due to our overly strenuous schedules. With Memorial Day in conclusion, our kids out of school, and the official start of summer upon us, these events often equate to unregulated summer fare, grilling extravaganzas, and pool parties. Yes, we all love summer gatherings and the often-unhealthy food options (hotdogs and potato chips) which can accompany those get-togethers, not to mention the likes of soft drinks, beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
So, there are multiple reasons (and excuses) on a seasonal basis (not just during the summer months) to consume unhealthy foods. Though when this happens, our gut microbiome can become quite imbalanced.
Everyone’s gut microbiome is an ecosystem of trillions of micro-organisms coinciding to maintain gut health, support the immune system, and regulate varying physiological functions. Fascinatingly enough, your gut microbiome is unique to you, comparable to a fingerprint. Research shows the composition and diversity of gut microbes vary significantly from person to person, influenced by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Sadly, our everyday, modern practices which include over-antibiotic use, Westernized diets, and high-stress lifestyles can promote bacterial gut dysfunction. In addition, not eating enough fiber, more than enough high-fat foods, while consuming too many high-protein meals can also create gut microbiome bacteria disproportions.
So, why is all this important? Your gut microbiome hosts a crucial role in regulating digestion, absorption of nutrients, metabolism, and even brain function. Imbalances or disruptions in the microbiome can lead to various health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, allergies, and even depression and anxiety.
So, how can we restore the balance of our microbiome?
- Remove foods that feed harmful bacteria and cause inflammation like those packed with high sugar (which also feeds bad bacteria), as well as highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and red meat which can cause inflammation.
- Introduce prebiotic foods to feed beneficial bacteria like onions, apples, underripe bananas, oatmeal, garlic, ground flaxseeds, dandelion greens, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, seaweed, and naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.
- Always supplement with probiotics like cheese, yogurt, and pickles.
- Practice getting enough sleep, exercising, and staying hydrated.
Additionally, eat a balanced and diverse diet that includes whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, barley, cracked wheat, farro, millet, quinoa, black, brown, and red rice.
Reduce your intake of pesticides, antacids, and other environmental toxins by proactively detoxing. Also, purchase organic products; thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, trim fat from meats and cook chicken thoroughly. While antibiotics are often necessary to treat bacterial infections, they can also harm beneficial gut bacteria. Therefore, only take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor, and follow the instructions carefully.
It is important to note tress can alter the balance of gut microbes, leading to inflammation and dysregulation of the immune system. So, manage stress with consistent yoga, meditation, and deep breathing, regularly.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol is not necessarily good for our gut microbiome as it can promote bacterial overgrowth. However, with that stated, red wine (in moderation) is known to improve the microbiome due to its polyphenol content, which is known to increase ‘good’ bacteria.
By simply taking these steps to support your gut microbiome function, you can easily enhance your overall health while still having lots of fun during those upcoming summer pool parties and cookout celebrations.
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Finally, I wish everyone a safe, fun, and healthy summer!