The gut microbiome is a collection of around 100 trillion bacteria, fungi and parasites, and 500 trillion mini-viruses, by far outnumbering the cells in our body, with 80% of it located in the lining of our large intestine alongside our immune cells. Amazingly, it weighs about the same as our brain. It's a sophisticated harmonious community which is so individualised that even identical twins only have an overlap of around 35%. These bacteria located in the gut can impact everything about our health, including how our brain responds to stress, how well we digest certain foods, our response to disease and infection, how we store fat and gain or lose weight, how we age and much, much more.
In other words, bloating, acne, weight gain, energy slumps, poor sleep, anxiety, low mood, joint aches, constipation/diarrhoea, PMS symptoms, asthma, low libido, fertility issues, mental clarity, poor focus, memory problems, headaches, mood swings, phobias, brittle hair and nails, and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, are only some of the things which can develop if our gut microbiome is out of whack.
and the really interesting thing?
These gut microbes affect how we respond to food, and conversely, food affects how our microbiome functions; Meaning....We can control our bodily and cognitive functioning through what and how we eat. We also have the ability to influence our body's responses to disease & infection. I think that's pretty exciting!
(References: Spector, 2020; Burrell Education 3rd Age Course Notes, 2021, The Nutrition Coach Academy Course Notes, 2021);
Essentially, if you want to positively influence your gut health, it boils down to addressing four cornerstones in life:
Nutrition Let's start with the obvious.... limit the amount of processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, animal products and caffeine. Instead opt for whole foods and diversity. Think foods which have less than a handful of ingredients. Like a carrot; that's only one ingredient! Try and include fermented foods in your diet a few times a week. There's a reason plant-based diets are proving popular and it's because people are feeling better eating this way. There's more to this though; how we eat, where we eat, why we eat and when we eat comes into play...but let's save that for another time ;)
Sleep Why would sleep affect our microbiome? Well, it turns out that sleep affects hormones and hormones affect microbes, just as microbes affect hormones. Practising good sleep hygiene like we've talked about before can seriously influence our health and gut microbiome activity
Stress Much like poor sleep, stress in life isn't doing us any favours. What and who are your radiators and who are your drains? We've talked over the last 12 months about lots of different ways to decrease and manage stress including blue and green space, breathing & relaxation exercises, meditation, journalling, gratitude practice. Check out the blog further if you need some reminders and think about decluttering life. Are there 'friends' who just sap the energy out of you? In which case do you need them in your life?
Movement Just like I said in the last post, movement is generally good for us, and is a driver for other positive health behaviours, such as choosing to eat well, and prioritising sleep, as long as we do it the right way at the right time. There's very little negative side effects in choosing to move more
It sounds easy right? In theory it is! In practice, it's a bit more complicated than this, but addressing these basics is a good place to start. I've already mentioned that our individual response varies massively and this is why it's a bit more complex to figure out what may be going on with your personal gut health, but if you'd like to delve further, you can always be in contact and we can set up an initial consultation
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