Inside your belly is a thriving bacterial world, an eco-system commonly known as the ‘microbiome.’ It’s filled with bacteria – trillions of them, in fact – all going about their daily business of keeping you well. Without you’re being aware of it, they’re busily breaking down food; extracting nutrients; producing vitamins and brain chemicals; fending off microbial invaders; protecting you from disease; and performing hundreds of tasks essential to keeping your systems functioning optimally.
Problem is, few of us reach adulthood with our microbiome in the best of shape – it’s picked up a few dents and dings along the way, from gut-busters like drugs and antibiotics, junk food, GMOs, conventionally or factory farmed meats and other assaults on our inner ecology.
All of the things that impair our microbiome disrupt gut health as well. We’ve come to think of digestive symptoms as normal—doesn’t “everyone” have a bit of gas or bloating?—but, in fact, these symptoms can be the first signs of a microbiome that’s gone off the rails. A damaged microbiome can’t nourish the gut wall. The result – increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut, ” — in which the one-cell thick, tightly woven net of cells lining the gut loosen, creating spaces that allow bacteria, toxins and pieces of the partially digested food to “leak” through. This ‘prison break’ triggers system-wide inflammation that can produce symptoms almost anywhere in the body.
In my book, repairing a leaky gut and protecting your microbiome, is one of the most important things you can to do sustain health. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do it – and here’s where to start:
1. Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Whenever Possible
Why? Because we simply don’t know enough about what negative impact they may have on our bodies in the long-term. To find out which genetically modified foods to avoid, see the Non-GMO Project’s list.
2. Avoid Sweet and Starchy Foods
They feed the bad bacteria in your gut causing overgrowth that overwhelms the good bacteria and upsetting the bacterial balance, which in turn effects how well your microbiome functions.
3. Avoid Junk Food and Processed Foods
These “foods” have been altered and modified and are detrimental to the microbiome – they contain trans fats, additives, preservatives, GMO corn, GMO soy or industrial seed oils.
4. Avoid Preservatives and Artificial Ingredients
Lousy for your body, lousy for your microbiome. ‘Nuff said!
5. Avoid Gluten
This is a compound protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains, as well as in soy sauce, seitan, beer, and many packaged and processed foods. For many people, gluten is irritating to the gut, triggering the immune system to fight back by launching an inflammatory response.
6. Avoid Conventionally Farmed Meat, Poultry, Dairy Products, and Eggs
The majority of them contain antibiotics and hormones, and the animals were likely raised on genetically modified corn or soy feed, none of which support the health of your microbiome.