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Being healthy is not just about eating the right foods, reducing stress and being happy. There is so much more to it than that. One of the most influential factors in our overall health is the diversity of our gut microbiome. In simpler terms the good bacteria in our body. It is estimated that our body is host to more than 100-trillion microorganisms and can be considered to be a virtual organ.

The connection between the gut and our emotions is so strong that the gut is often known as the ‘second brain’. The bacteria in the gut produce neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine, GABA, Acetylcholine, Melatonin and Norephnepherine. These are some very big words that can have a very big impact on our sleep, mood, anxiety and even depression. That is why it is so important to look after our microbiome or ‘good bacteria.’

How can we do this and what does our gut need to function optimally? Gut bacteria love to feed on plant fibres and variety is the spice of life. Diversity is so important when it comes to giving them what they need. By combining all the colours of the rainbow when we eat fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs will ensure you will keep those little microbes happy.

Probiotics are the name given to the beneficial bacteria that we find in supplements and certain foods. The two main species of bacteria that we rely on are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are the “friendly” bacteria that normally live in our digestive, urinary and genital systems without causing problems. They help to keep out the bad bacteria that can cause disease and unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, cramping, constipation and diarrhea.

You can find Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in some fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kefir. You can also find them in our probiotic supplements, Pro Flora, Flora Kids and Flora Max, especially if you do not tolerate dairy and don’t like the taste of fermented foods.

The other benefits of a healthy gut microbiome can contribute to a strong immune system, good digestion, heart and brain health and it has been reported to prevent some cancers and autoimmune disease. Interestingly, weight gain has been shown to be the impacted by poor diversity of the microbiome and certain keystone strains like Akkermansia correlate to lower fat around the middle. Targeting the gut microbiome, with probiotics, benefits human health and could potentially reduce obesity.

What things can negatively affect a healthy microbiome? The things that have been found to have the most detrimental affect on the beneficial bacteria are drugs, antibiotics, pesticides and highly processed foods among others.

So, all in all, in order to keep our microbiome in good health aim to eat a variety of colours and different plant fibres or supplement with a good quality probiotic and cut out highly processed foods on a day to day basis.

Beverley Cooke, DipCNM, mBANT, mANP, CNHC registered.


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