The health of our gut impacts every other part of the body, even the brain. Gut is a powerful control center due to its bidirectional communication with brain. Gut has the biggest part of our immune system, nervous system (outside the brain) and endocrine system (network of glands that make hormones which help cells communicate with each other).
Our gut is also home to unique combination of trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi) called “microbiota”. The combined genetic material of these microorganisms in our gut is called “gut microbiome”. Simply put, microbiome refers to the entire habitat like a house, and microbiota to the people who live there.
The human gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem that lives symbiotically with us and has an essential role in digestion function and much more like creating vitamins, controlling immune system, producing neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and managing inflammation.
The efficiency and function of our gut is dependent upon the health of our microbiome; but stress, anxiety, processed food, medications and many other factors are impacting the diversity and richness of the gut microbiome, impacting our body's health. An imbalance of unhealthy and beneficial microbes (dysbiosis) may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar and many other disorders.
The diversity of the microbiome consists of number of beneficial microbes that produce things that are good for us. For example, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced by our beneficial bacteria from plant-based fiber; SCFAs nourish other beneficial microbes, preserve the integrity of our gut lining, and are great for combating inflammation, which is a growing problem and increases the risk of several chronic diseases.
When we have imbalances in our microbiome - too few beneficial bacteria or too much of the bad – it impacts the production of important SCFAs, and the bad kind causes its own problems. The imbalances can lead to chronic inflammatory and intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Leaky Gut, and SIBO, but also chronic inflammation, depression, even cancer and heart disease.
Imbalances in our microbiome is directly related to the food we consume, our stress levels and lifestyle including sleep and movement. If we eat the food that facilitates a healthy microbiome, we will automatically do the best for our health and address a host of downstream chronic diseases and prevent/slow cognitive decline. So, it’s our job to encourage the good microbes by feeding them the things they need and avoiding the things that damage them.
Microbiome target diet makes it easy for us to not think about how many grams of protein, fat or carbohydrates we need. Good bacteria love healthy whole, organic, plant-based foods, ones that are high in fiber and nutrients and contain no artificial ingredients. If you are wondering what good sources of fiber are, following is a partial list of foods filled with fiber and foods to feed your gut.
Fiber-rich foods for your gut:
Vamshi Lingampally (Functional Nutritionist)