Having a happy microbiome impacts so many areas of our health. This bug community influences our mood, sleep, weight, energy levels, immune system, and skin health. It’s so important that it’s now considered an organ in its own right. So, it’s no exaggeration to say that looking after our gut microbiome and gut health is foundational for our wellness. Read on to find out why our microbiome is so amazing, as well as gut loving tips, foods for gut health, and our top picks for gut health supplements.
Why does our gut microbiome matter?
Our microbiome is an ecosystem of microbes that we need to stay healthy. In fact, there are more bacteria in our bodies than our own cells. The bug community members are mostly bacteria (over 1,000 different species), but also fungi, archaea, and viruses - with a total population of more than 1 trillion. Research shows they have health supporting qualities and the more desirable ones keep the less desirable community members in check, by crowding them out and competing for space.
Pre, Pro and Postbiotics
Probiotics: are the friendly bacteria that form part of our microbiome. Research shows that diversity is key for gut probiotics, meaning the larger variety of species we have, the better. Our range of probiotics for gut health offer broad spectrum formulas to support diversity, as well as formulas with strains to support specific health concerns. For more details on probiotics check out our blog Good For Your Gut! The Importance of Probiotics for Overall Health.
Prebiotics: are what feed our good bacteria and support their growth and activity. We get prebiotics from our food, mostly from fibre-rich foods (more on this later) and they can also be taken in supplement form. They have fun names like XOS (Xylo-oligosaccharide), GOS (galacto-oligosaccharide), and Inulin, including FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide). Looking for a supplement to up your prebiotic intake? Check our carefully curated range of Prebiotics.
Postbiotics: these are beneficial compounds that our good bacteria make, scientists call them ‘gut microbial metabolites’. Postbiotics like propionate, butyrate, SCFAs (short chain fatty acids), and lactate help keep our gut healthy and play a big role in supporting a strong immune system in the gut and good integrity within our gut lining. They’re responsible for a lot of the health supporting properties associated with probiotics and a balanced microbiome.
How does our gut health impact our overall wellness?
Our probiotic friends perform tasks inside our gut which influence other areas of health. The last two decades have seen plenty of research on this. Here are some examples where keeping our gut bug balance can be helpful.
Our gut microbes do quite a few jobs when it comes to energy production. They play a part in food breakdown as well as the absorption of nutrients, which we need for energy. They also synthesise vitamins in our gut, they make vitamins including:
And they play an especially important role in making Vitamin B12.
B Complex Vitamins help us by supporting the way energy is released from the food we eat. So, looking after our gut health and microbiome can help us keep a spring in our step.
Studies show that our skin health is tied up with our gut health. It’s called the gut-skin axis. Research has linked many skin conditions to imbalances in the gut microbiome, which scientists call ‘dysbiosis’. Postbiotics made by our gut bacteria support the skin to maintain its healthy barrier, keeping it moisturised and calm.
Our good bacteria make our ‘feel-good’ and ‘calming’ hormones, like serotonin, dopamine and GABA. We need good levels of these neurotransmitters for a healthy, buoyant mood and a relaxed outlook. Our mental wellness is closely related with our gut microbes via the gut-brain axis. Our gut probiotics also make postbiotics like butyrate that plays a big part in mental wellness too.
Research shows strong links between our microbiome and a healthy, balanced immune function. This includes white blood cells that fight off invaders as well as antibodies - our immune memory cells that develop strategic defenses against invaders. Our natural gut bacteria also support a balanced immune system, so our immune responses are appropriate.
How can I support my gut health?
Here are some ways we can show our gut and microbiome some love and in turn, support overall wellbeing.
Our top tips for good gut health
Stress self care
Stress is a normal part of life, and there are plenty of healthy ways to manage it. Research shows a strong correlation between stress and the health of our microbiome. Chronic stress can really knock it around, so healthy stress management is great for microbiome health. If you’re looking for some simple self-care tips to manage stress, you’ll be interested in 6 Ways To Stay Balanced And Look After Yourself. You can also find stress support supplements here.
For a herbal helper to support healthy stress adaptation, and in turn, a happy gut - try Radiance Instant Calm. This spray bottle easily fits in your pocket and has the adaptogen Ashwagandha for healthy stress resilience coupled with calming Kava and Lemon Balm to support a chilled out feeling. It’s flavoured with peppermint which earn it extra points for taste, you may notice a temporary numbness in your mouth, but don’t worry– it’s a sign of good quality kava.
If we sleep well, our microbiome benefits too. Research links gut microbe diversity (which is what we’re after) with getting enough sleep. If healthy sleep is an area you'd like to focus on, see our blog for tips to streamline your sleep Your Guide to Healthy Deep Sleep. For supplements that support getting to sleep and staying asleep try a sleep support supplement.
Clinicians REM Sleep, is a sleep support supplement with 5-HTP, Magnesium, Skullcap and Passionflower. This formula is designed with ingredients that work synergistically to support healthy sleep quality and a deep sleep that your microbiome will thank you for.
Our diet can change our microbiome - for better or worse. Put simply, a gut health diet is one that includes plenty of prebiotic fibre, so go for fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains. Lots of variety in your plant foods optimises gut bacteria diversity too. If you want to go to the next level, an organic diet - where possible - is even better, because it helps you avoid certain herbicides that destroy good bacteria. Avoiding alcohol and sugar will also have a positive effect on the microbiome. Fermented food and drink are winners because they’re full of postbiotic goodies. Try yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir and kombucha. If you’re looking to up your intake, check out our Fermented Foods & Drinks category.
What foods are good for your gut?
Looking to nurture your microbiome diversity? Here are some gut health foods, full of prebiotic fibre:
- Banana (especially greenish)
- Red kidney beans
- Soy milk (from whole soybeans)
It’s best to increase these foods gradually because they’re high in fibre and can lead to bowel changes like increased wind and bloating as your microbiome diversity changes. If you follow a low FODMAP diet some of these foods may not suit you.
Gut health supplements
The best gut health probiotics are broad spectrum, with a range of species and strains to support diversity. Choosing a microencapsulated option will help protect the friendly bacteria from stomach acid. My favourite probiotic to take and recommend is Lifestream Advanced Probiotics 14 Strains - it ticks all the boxes and is very well priced, especially considering the excellent quality.
For a combination of gut soothing herbs, like turmeric and aloe vera along with prebiotic fiber, BioBalance Bowel Balance is a powder with added XOS prebiotic to support healthy levels of bifidobacteria - an important probiotic species. It supports a healthy bowel environment and the production of postbiotics too.
Why choose Ayurvedic herbs to nourish your gut health? This premium organic blend combines ancient Ayurvedic herbs that are highly effective at supporting your digestion, detox, and regularity – by gently cleansing the GI tract and supporting the removal of toxins from the body . This unique blend also has added turmeric, helping to nourish your gut with its soothing and cleansing properties. Better yet, it’s small batch tested for quality and transparency. We love that it comes in a gorgeous glass bottle, perfect to reuse for your favourite Ayurvedic spices.
Always read the label and use as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.
- Kiwiherb (PhytoMed), Auckland
- Clinicians (Douglas), Auckland
- BioBalance Ltd, Collingwood
- Sattva Soul, Auckland