· By Rachel Debling
How to Cultivate A Healthy Gut Microbiome
Reading Time: 5 min
Gastroenterologist Dr. Marvin Singh, founder of the California-based Precisione Clinic, dishes advice on how to keep your “second brain” in tip-top shape.
Unless you’ve recently taken a tech detox, you have probably heard rumblings about the gut microbiome, the internal system of bacteria that influences everything from how you gain weight, to your mood, to how your body processes certain nutrients. The medical community and the general population alike are becoming more aware of this system’s wide-ranging effects, but more often than not there is still confusion over what these revelations mean on a personal, everyday level.
“There has definitely been a surge in interest lately because the technology for measuring and analyzing the gut microbiome we have at our fingertips is now so readily available to the general public,” explains Dr. Marvin Singh, MD, founder of Precisione Clinic. “We now know so much more information than we ever did in the past.” However, he cautions that there is still much to learn.
Singh details a seemingly endless and “continually growing” list of conditions linked to unhealthy gut microbiome, including but not limited to allergies, autism, autoimmune conditions, cancer, depression, anxiety, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease. The problem is, many of the causes of an imbalanced gut microbiome, such as chronic stress, a lack of exercise and certain medications such as antibiotics, stem from the modern Western lifestyle. To improve the vitality of this system, Singh urges a “back to basics” approach:
How Environmental Factors Affect Your Microbiome
The chemicals that we come into contact with on a daily basis within the confines of our homes play a significant role in the gradual erosion of the beneficial bacteria present in our bodies. Therefore, it becomes imperative for us to carefully examine and evaluate the contents of our cupboards as a crucial first step towards rectifying this issue.
Our homes are filled with an array of products that contain various chemicals, ranging from cleaning agents and detergents to personal care items and even certain types of food packaging. These chemicals, although seemingly harmless, can have detrimental effects on the delicate balance of bacteria within our bodies.
Cleaning agents and detergents, for instance, often contain harsh chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, and triclosan, which are known to possess antimicrobial properties. While these properties may be desirable for cleaning purposes, they can also indiscriminately target and eliminate both harmful and beneficial bacteria. As a result, the delicate ecosystem of bacteria within our bodies, particularly in our digestive system, can be disrupted, leading to potential health issues.
Similarly, personal care products like antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and even certain cosmetics may contain chemicals such as triclosan, triclocarban, and phthalates. These chemicals, although intended to kill harmful bacteria or enhance product performance, can also have unintended consequences. They can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria on our skin, potentially leading to skin irritations, allergies, and even antibiotic resistance.
Furthermore, certain types of food packaging, such as plastic containers and cans, may contain chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals can leach into our food and beverages, and when ingested, they can interfere with the beneficial bacteria in our gut. This interference can disrupt the proper functioning of our digestive system, potentially leading to digestive disorders and other health complications.
Therefore, it is crucial for us to be mindful of the chemicals present in the products we use and the packaging we consume. By taking stock of what is in our cupboards, we can make informed decisions about the products we bring into our homes. Opting for natural, eco-friendly cleaning agents, personal care products, and food packaging can help minimize our exposure to harmful chemicals and preserve the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria within our bodies.
In conclusion, the chemicals we encounter in our daily lives within the confines of our homes can have a profound impact on the beneficial bacteria in our bodies. By being aware of the contents of our cupboards and making conscious choices, we can take a significant Singh says that resources like EWG’s Skin Deep database will point you in the right direction as to which beauty and household items to reach for and which to steer clear of.
“Chemicals and additives can cause obesity and inflammation, and when they are added to increase shelf life, they can contribute to a shorter human lifespan over time,” he warns, adding that eating a clean diet is, therefore, a proactive step you can take.
Clean Foods = Clean Gut
A whole-food, plant-focused diet refers to a dietary approach that emphasizes the consumption of minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods derived from plants. This type of diet includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Studies have shown, that by adopting this eating pattern, individuals can ensure that they are obtaining a diverse range of essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are crucial for maintaining optimal health.
Furthermore, this diet is also rich in phytonutrients, which are natural compounds found in plants that have been shown to have numerous health benefits. Phytonutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they can help protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. By consuming a wide array of plant-based foods, individuals can increase their intake of these beneficial compounds and support their overall well-being.
In addition, a whole-food, plant-focused diet is high in fibre. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the human body. Instead, it passes through the digestive system relatively intact, providing a range of health benefits. Fibre helps regulate bowel movements, prevents constipation, helps with irritable bowel syndrome, and promotes a healthy gut microbiome. It acts as a prebiotic, serving as a food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome, play a crucial role in maintaining a strong immune system, supporting digestion, and even influencing mental health.
By consuming a diet rich in phytonutrients and fibre, individuals can cultivate a strong and fortified microbiome. This means that they are promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in their gut, which can have a positive impact on their overall health. A diverse and balanced microbiome is associated with a reduced risk of various health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Overall, adopting a whole-food, plant-focused diet is a powerful way to support the health and diversity of the microbiome. By nourishing the body with nutrient-dense plant-based foods, individuals can optimize their overall well-being and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. “Additionally, making sure you are hydrated, sleeping enough, reducing stress and spending quality time with loved ones are also components of a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, believe it or not,” he adds.
These are areas that Singh considers in his practice and applies to his patients’ programs –and they aren’t just important for the gut microbiome. “While the gut microbiome is a key component to health, it is only one single component of an intricate web of information that is contained inside of the human body,” Singh notes.
Written by Rachel Debling for Clean Eating Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.