Monday, November 16, 2015

Don’t Upset Your Microbiome

Last article I talked about how important all the bacteria living in your digestive system are – your gut microbiome.  They have many functions and without them we can acquire many serious illnesses and diseases. 

There are some things that disrupt our microbiome that we don’t have much control over.  Caesarean sections save baby’s lives but this means that they don’t get exposed to mother’s bacteria in the vaginal canal at birth.  Formula has also saved lives but formula does not expose the baby to mom’s healthy bacteria.  When antibiotics are used correctly they save many lives but these can wipe out a lifetime of healthy gut bacteria leaving a very upset microbiome.

So how do you keep your little bacteria friends happy you ask?

Eat fibre.  Avoid sugar.  Eat lots of fruit and veggies (with the skin on).  This provides great food for your microbiome as well as making sure everything keeps moving.  Bacteria don’t like it when stool sticks around too long.  Sugar only helps to feed the bad bacteria so try to limit your intake.

Don’t eat preservatives.  Preservatives are designed to kill and stop the growth of
bacteria, and that is just what they keep on doing inside your body.  These pesky chemicals have only been in our diet for less than a century and they are wreaking havoc on our gut bacteria.  Avoid products with preservatives listed.  ‘Flavouring’ and ‘colouring’ are full of preservatives, which might not be listed separately on the label so avoid any products with these.   Product labels only have to show ingredients that are higher than 10 parts per million, but many preservatives are very effective at even this low level.  Keep in mind that food manufacturers are out to make money so they may lie on their labels (even if it is illegal).  So if there is a product that doesn’t go off within a few days, don’t eat it!          

Buy organic from the dirty list.  Pesticides are also designed to kill.  Organophosphates have been banned in Europe and restricted in the US but are still widely used in Australia.  These pesticides are linked to reduced IQ, weight gain, Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  Children under 7 years old do not have the enzyme required to excrete these chemicals from their little bodies so it just builds.  The ‘dirty’ foods with the highest pesticide residues in Australia are, in order, apples, wheat, strawberries, pears, grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, and tomatoes.  To save money, buy these foods organic and buy foods from the ‘clean’ list conventional.  The ‘clean’ foods are onions, sweet corn, pineapple, asparagus, sweet peas, mango, eggplant, kiwi and cabbage.

If you are worried about the state of your gut bacteria or already have symptoms of an imbalance, taking a probiotic supplement may help.

The bacteria in your gut are very important to your health and longevity.  Be nice to them and they will be nice to you.  If you have any questions, talk to your local naturopath.