Disclosure: I’m a sponsored Align Influencer, but all opinions, including my tips on building up your microbiome, are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.
Ahhhhhhhhhh, the microbiome. A term we’re hearing everywhere these days. I’m sure many of you have heard the term ‘microbiome‘ throughout the last few months more than ever. So, what IS the microbiome and why should you be concerned with it?
That’s a great question.
And today, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to build a strong microbiome.
You Are What You Eat
The microbiome is a collection of bacteria inside and outside of our bodies and it changes with everything you eat and put on your skin (toxic beauty products, chemicals, etc). Yes, every piece of food you put into your mouth (and everything you drink) changes your microbiome. So, every glass of wine, every can of soda, every ice cream, every cupcake, every French fry, every bowl of white flour pasta, every piece of white flour pizza – all lead to the growth of non-beneficial bacteria, which drives your microbiome out of balance.
As I’ve discussed before, what you eat can decrease or increase inflammation in your body. I’ve seen clients whose inflammation has gone down just from following along the anti-inflammatory plan in my cookbook, Eating Clean, as well as the recipes on my website and meal plans and taking a daily probiotic. What you may not realize is that your food and microbiome are in constant contact; the microbiome effects your diet and your diet effects your microbiome. As many of you know, changes in your gut bacteria can cause weight gain, so oftentimes my clients are confused as to why they’re gaining weight if they are eating healthy and exercising. Turns out that your gut bacteria are smarter than you think and if they’re out of balance (more non-beneficial bacteria than beneficial bacteria), then they’re the cause!
Eating more fruits and veggies shifts the bacterial species to beneficial bacteria versus eating a meat and cheese diet (which increases non-beneficial bacteria), which is why it’s so important to eat lots of fresh, organic fruits and veggies. The food you eat determines the bacteria you grow and these bacteria turn on different genes and those genes activate disease. So you are what you eat and you are what your gut bacteria eat!
The community of organisms that reside inside of us is what makes up our microbiome; it’s all the microbes that live in and on the body. It’s a combination of bacteria, fungi, viruses and all their genes, which is a lot of microbes. There are more microbes in the gut alone than cells in your entire body, making you more microbe than human! These are an essential part of our ecosystem and are vital at keeping us healthy. Many of us think about adding in nutrients through our food but we also need to think about replenishing the beneficial bacteria. So, the main question is what should we be feeding our gut bacteria to optimize our microbiome?
My microbiome story started a few years ago when I went through my 10 years of chronic illness. No one had been paying attention to the antibiotics I was being prescribed and I was simply just doing as I was told, however I was killing off all my beneficial bacteria, when antibiotics weren’t necessary. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are certain times we need antibiotics but today, they’re over-prescribed and they’re affecting our gut health left and right. As the cycle of doctor visits continued and rounds and rounds of doctors, steroids, antibiotics and pain killers continued in my 20s – I realized I was done with this form of treatment. I knew there was another way of doing this. Now, I’m not advocating that you stop going to the doctor or self diagnose but I do want you to realize that you have to have the power inside of you to challenge your doctor and start listening to yourself and your body while supporting your beneficial bacteria. I had to learn how to heal my own gut and balance my beneficial bacteria, which had been wiped out from stress, processed foods, antibiotics, prescription drugs, gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar. Something I learned in the last few years is that C-sections, which are now 1 in 3 births, bypass a critical early step: colonization of the vaginal microbes. That simple act of traveling through the vaginal canal and taking in those probiotics is key for your immune system. These benefits continue long after you leave the hospital. Unfortunately, I was a C-section baby, like many of you, so my gut bacteria wasn’t so fabulous to begin with from the day I was born.
Presently, hand sanitizers are everywhere, antibiotics are everywhere, processed foods are everywhere and chemicals are everywhere. We’re starting to see the effects of all of these changes making many of us sick with unwanted symptoms popping up out of nowhere. We are so far removed from the natural world and we’re paying the price with our health. That’s when probiotics come into play – focusing on the beneficial bacteria so that your immune system can reboot and replenish, keeping you healthy and happy.
Taking a daily probiotic can help maintain digestive balance as common issues such as diet, changes in routine, travel and stress may disrupt your natural balance of good bacteria. However, not all probiotics are created equal. Align is the only probiotic supplement that contains B. infantis 35624™ – a unique patented strain of beneficial bacteria that helps promote and support a healthy digestive system.*
How to Get on Track After the Holiday Season
This year, I want to share a few tips on how you can get on track and stay on track with your health!
- Eat the right fats. Eat raw walnuts, wild salmon, organic eggs, almonds, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocado, hemp seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
- Remove inflammatory fats. Remove refined vegetable oils such as canola oil, fried foods and processed foods, which are full of inflammatory fats.
- Remove processed foods. We all know these foods are full of refined sugar, fat, and starches that do nothing but populate non-beneficial bacteria in your gut leading to yeast overgrowth and other issues that knock your immune system out of balance.
- Add in probiotic-rich foods. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, chickpea miso and other fermented foods. Don’t use foods that are fermented in vinegar; use foods fermented in only water and sea salt!
- Add in a daily probiotic for long-term usage. There is no quick fix but taking probiotics will help cultivate a healthy garden of bacteria in your gut. I love Align Probiotic because it’s easy to digest (now they come in a chewable option) and it keeps my gut happy and healthy!
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol surely doesn’t feed your beneficial bacteria so limit your alcohol usage as much as possible.
- Eat whole, one-ingredient foods. We all know the best way to eat clean and keep our guts healthy is to eat whole, organic, one-ingredient foods. What’s in an apple? An apple. What’s in an avocado? An avocado. Base your entire day off these foods and you’ll feel brand new!
- Add in more fruits and vegetables. Fiber is key for digestion and to populate the beneficial bacteria so add more of your favorite fruits and veggies to your day.
- Slow down. Slow down when you are eating (this was So hard for me to do because I always ate so fast!) but your body needs to be in rest/relaxation mode for your parasympathetic nervous system to be able to digest your food.
- Slow down your body. Meditate, enjoy quiet time with yourself, read a good book, make some hot tea and get cozy on your couch or watch a good movie. Don’t feel like you always have to be on social media or your computer. Your nervous system needs time away from all of that.
How to Build Up Your Gut Flora
- Eat clean. My motto! Check out my book, Eating Clean, for more ways to eat clean.
- Eat more plants. You know the drill. Don’t eat so many plants that you leave yourself bloated but add in a few more fruits and veggies as well as ground flaxseeds to your day to up your fiber intake.
- Eat more beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods, as listed above are your best bet!
- Take high-quality probiotics. I love Align probiotics as I’ve mentioned previously. Especially if you are traveling, these are great because you can store them in your bag when you travel! No need to keep them in the fridge. So easy and you don’t have to stress about finding a refrigerator in your hotel!
- Reduce your exposure to chemicals. Eat organic foods as well as use clean beauty products such as deodorant, shampoo, sunscreen and makeup since your body absorbs what you put onto your skin and this all effects your gut health.
- Remove processed foods. Processed foods feed the non-beneficial bacteria and yeast grows in our gut, which causes many unwanted symptoms.
- Talk to your Functional/Integrative MD. about antibiotics, steroids, acid-blockers and anti-inflammatory medications. Work with a functional MD to help you heal your gut if you’ve been exposed to these medications.
- Toxins. Mold and heavy metals can contribute to poor gut health, both of which I had contribute to an imbalanced microbiome. Check out the back of my book for testing on how to know if you have either of these issues.
- Digestive enzymes. Not having enough digestive enzymes can allow large particles of food to enter your gut which can ferment in your intestines and lead to gas, bloating, SIBO, IBS and other uncomfortable symptoms.
- Make sure the majority of your meals are leafy green vegetables along with a portion of healthy fats and protein.
- Reduce stress with walks in nature, meditation, quiet time.
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
- Eat your meals without distractions so that you can ensure you are digesting your food and not swallowing it in chunks, which affects your gut health and cause fermentation, bloating and gas.
How to Build a Healthy Microbiome for Overall Wellness
Having a healthy gut means more than just having a flat stomach without bloating or indigestion. The health of your gut is central to your overall health and is connected to every single thing that happens in your body, which is why functional/integrative MD’s will start healing your gut first before they work on any other area of your body. Your gut does everything from produce vitamins, regulate hormones, get rid of toxins and more. Too many non beneficial bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria can lead to serious health issues. The goal is to eat a clean, whole food diet, which affects the balance of the beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria in your gut. This means rounding out your day with organic fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. Surprisingly, as mentioned above, omega 3 fats and monounsaturated fats such as avocados, almonds, walnuts and extra-virgin olive oil help improve your beneficial bacteria while inflammatory fats such as those in vegetable oils, fried foods and processed foods promote the growth of non-beneficial bacteria that can cause health issues and weight gain.
Remember, health is not the absence of disease. Just because you’re not suffering from a chronic health condition doesn’t mean your body can’t benefit from the beneficial bacteria in probiotics and lifestyle changes. Health issues occur from years of exposure to toxins so just because you’re not experiencing symptoms now, doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from cultivating a strong microbiome. Your future self will thank you. Trust me.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Align partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its great product benefits. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Align believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Align’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.