You’re outnumbered. There are close to 10 times as many bacteria cells than human cells in your body. In that sense, you are almost more bacteria than you are human!
Taking care of the good bacteria and adjusting imbalances in your gut is key to fighting a laundry list of disorders. These include obesity, depression, heart disease, and many forms of cancer. Not to mention, 70-80% of your immune system is dependent on what’s happening with your gut bacteria.
Simply put, if you have a gut bacteria imbalance you won’t be healthy unless you take steps to improve on it. Thankfully, you can make massive improvements in just 30-days or less but first, we’ll dive deeper into why these little critters matter so much to you and your well-being.
What is a microbiome and what does it do?
Roughly two pounds of your bodyweight is gut bacteria, and they come in at least 1,000 different strains. Likely even more. All this might seem gross on the surface but actually it’s miraculous. The combination of these little critters, along with viruses and fungi make up your entire gut microbiome.
This microbiome is like an entire ecosystem living within your digestive tract. Okay, maybe this isn’t the sexiest topic but it is vital to your health and well-being.
In fact, it could be a major factor that is holding you back from reaching your weight loss goals.
A tale of two rodents
Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine conducted a study involving human twins. He tested the bacteria from twins who were different sizes. Specifically when one of the pair was slim, and the other obese.
What he found was fascinating. The slim twins had a microbiome that was more diverse.
It could’ve been that correlation wasn’t necessarily causation, but thankfully the story doesn’t stop there.
The research team took the four sets of human bacteria from both the heavier and lighter twins and implanted them into a group of mice. The groups that were given the slim bacteria maintained their weight, while the mice receiving the bacteria from the heavier twin began packing on pounds.
Even if you are at your ideal body weight there are reasons to focus on the composition of good bacteria in your body.
Bacteria and your well being
Taking steps to improve upon an imbalance in your gut bacteria may help prevent or reverse certain conditions like depression, digestive disorders, or even cancer.
Having beneficial bacteria can help crowd out bad bacteria. This is one way that balancing gut bacteria may actually restore a less-than-stellar immune system.
The good bacteria in your body actually help fight off outside organisms as well. This makes a lot of sense considering your body is their home, too. They have just as much to gain from defending their team against invaders.
This is especially important because these bad bugs can attack an important system that lives within the lining of your gut. This is called the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, or GALT for short. This tissue contains cells that are responsible for the strength of your immune system and keep bad bugs from entering the bloodstream.
Without the good bacteria crowding out the bad, these systems could easily become overwhelmed leading to a host of nasty disorders and inflammation.
The 30-day action plan for optimal gut health
Depending on how healthy your gut is right now, it may take less than 30 days to get your gut health balanced out. On the other hand, it may take a lot longer. For example, if you have taken a lot of antibiotics over the course of your lifetime there is a good chance that many of the good bugs died off with the bad bugs.
This is not impossible to reverse, but it will take time and a willingness to create some good habits. And it doesn’t have to be painful.
Habits tend to stick better when we take small steps rather than many changes all at once. So in order to help you maintain a long-lasting habit that will keep your gut in tip-top shape for life, I want to break it down into weekly action steps.
Week 1: Drink plenty of water and limit your meals
Your digestive system will need all the help it can get. Switching to a diet of three meals per day (if you haven’t started 3 Meal Magic yet, now is the time!) will allow your digestive system to take some well-deserved rest. This is especially powerful if you’re used to grazing on snacks all day….a classic symptom of an emotional eater.
Drinking plenty of water will ensure that bad bugs can be flushed through your system efficiently. Not to mention, we often mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking plenty of water will help you determine if you are hungry or dehydrated.
Week 2: Introduce fermented foods
Kefir, kombucha, kraut, and kimchi are the Hollywood A-list of fermented foods. These provide a whopping dose of probiotics which are the good bacteria that your body needs to run smoothly.
A warning some people find the taste of these to be a bit off-putting: If you can’t acquire a taste for it, options include naturally fermented pickles, raw cheese, and yogurt.
If all else fails, there are some good probiotic supplements out there, but you need to do your homework. Make sure the probiotics you are taking are actually alive. Never buy probiotics that are not refrigerated or have a bacteria count of below 50 billion.
Week 3: Prebiotics and resistant starch
Prebiotics are fibers that are indigestible in our body but can be broken down by our gut bacteria. If probiotics are the good bacteria themselves, you can think of prebiotics as a food source for your bug buddies.
Foods that are high in prebiotics are raw garlic, onion, and raw chicory root.
If you can’t or don’t want to use these items you could throw in some resistant starch instead. This will still provide your body with prebiotics but is more practical for a lot of people.
You can get resistant starch by eating green bananas or plantains, peas, raw potatoes (not for me), cooked and cooled potatoes (much better).
If all else fails you could add a teaspoon of uncooked potato starch to your favorite beverage and see how that goes. Potato starch is mostly flavorless and quite inexpensive so it might be a good option for some.
Week 4: De-stress
This one may be easier said than done. You might want to take a personal inventory of the things that stress you out the most and see if you can eliminate them. This is a personal inventory and is different for everyone.
One thing that I can recommend for just about anyone is meditation. It really is powerful in its ability to help people let go of the things that are keeping them stressed out and on edge.
Keeping yourself as stress-free as possible will go a long way in helping your gut microbiome, as well as your overall health.
It’s amazing that what we know about the gut microbiome, and its role in overall health, is still a relatively new discovery. Many health professionals still haven’t caught up to how important it is for overall health.
Improving an imbalance in your gut bacteria will help many people lose weight, feel more at ease, end bowel problems, and increase their immune system. If you are serious about your health then you should give serious thought to nurturing the little critters who live in your digestive tract.