70 to 80 percent of our immune system is in our gut, which is probably why Hippocrates said that “all disease begins in the gut”. The bacteria in your gut microbiome play a critical role in keeping your body’s systems running smoothly. Your intestinal wall is the barrier that keeps toxins and waste from leaking into your bloodstream and body, and the presence of good bacteria in your gut helps tokeep that lining intact. Leaky gut leads to inflammation, which can lead to disease.
There is also a direct connection between your brain and your gut via a system of over 100 million nerve cells in your gastrointestinal tract know as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), also know as the “second brain”. The ENS is responsible for your digestion and how your body handles food. It also communicates with the trillions of microbes in your gut to send messages to your brain about how you feel and can influence how you feel, how you perceive the world and how you behave. Our gut educates our immune system and helps us resist disease.
For optimum health, the goal is to maximize the good bacteria in our gut and minimize the bad. The good bugs protect us against illness while the bad ones produce endotoxin, a poison that promotes inflammation and disease. To do this, you want to consume foods and supplements that contain the good bacteria (probiotics) as well as foods that will feed the good bacteria (prebiotics).
Probiotics, the good bacteria, help your body digest food, produce vitamins and fight against pathogens that invade your body to produce disease. Fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha and sourdough bread are excellent sources of probiotics.
Prebiotics are nondigestible fibers that feed the probiotics as they ferment in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the best prebiotic choices are dandelion greens, leeks, artichokes, bananas, celery, onions, garlic, berries, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus and oats. Which bacteria thrive in your gut is determined by what you eat, so the more variety of high fiber plant-based foods you consume, the greater the variety of good bacteria will exist in your gut.
In addition to consuming probiotics and prebiotics, it’s important to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. These can be fish, nuts and beans, seeds, dark leafy greens, ginger, turmeric, olive oil and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, bok choy and cauliflower. Also remember to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.
Keep your gut microbiome healthy to keep your body and mind healthy.