Hippocrates was on to something when he wrote that all diseases begin in our guts.
Deep in our intestines is a diverse ecosystem collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. Proper care and feeding of this ecosystem affect almost every aspect of our health—our immune function, brain function, nervous and endocrine systems, metabolism, and digestion. Microbiome analysis has revealed a relationship between nutrition, gut microbiota, and a number of human diseases, including obesity. Additionally, increased intestinal permeability (aka "leaky gut") and altered gut flora has also been linked to autoimmune disorders, skin problems, and psychological and mood issues.
Are you familiar with the expression "gut feeling?" It's a real thing— and there's a reason our gut is being called the second brain. The term "gut-brain axis" refers to the chatting between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve. Neurotransmitters produced in the gut also affect the brain and vice versa. When the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut becomes disrupted (gut dysbiosis), this can cause cognitive and mood problems such as depression and anxiety.
Scientists are continuously discovering more about our microbiome. Maintaining a diverse and balanced gut microbiome and a healthy, well-functioning gut lining is essential to overall health.
Diet has emerged as one of the most powerful predictors of gut bacteria composition — above and beyond one’s genotype. Diet determines which bacteria will thrive in the gut, and the gut bacteria, in turn, aids digestion. A plant-based diet is strongly associated with a richer, more diverse microbiota profile. Although long-term diets form the gut community’s structure, dietary modification can produce detectible shifts in some bacterial species within 24 hours.
10 Tips to Boost Gut Health
Ditch or minimize sugar. Processed and sugary foods can decrease the number of good bacteria and feed the harmful bacteria in your gut. Lousy gut flora loves sugar. Gut flora imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can keep your gut in a vicious cycle.
Eat foods packed with probiotics. Eat naturally fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi.
Eat prebiotics. Prebiotics provide food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Great prebiotic food sources include asparagus, jicama, unripe bananas, onions, garlic, and artichokes.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) can be made from prebiotic soluble dietary fibers that fuel the activities of beneficial bacteria. These organic compounds have many important roles in the gastrointestinal tract, and for your wider health.
Get sufficient fiber each day. Fiber feeds the microbiome, and low-fiber diets reduce microbial diversity. Work up to 35-45 g a day in a variety of fibers. Good sources are beans, lentils, broccoli, avocado, chia seeds, berries, pears, apples, and oats.
Take a probiotic supplement. Eating real food with probiotics bacteria strains, particularly from both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families. If you have to take an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, take a broad-spectrum probiotic at least 2 hours after each dose and continue for at least two weeks after taking the antibiotic.
Omega-3 fats. Omega-3s increase the production of anti-inflammatory compounds and help strengthen the immune system by positively influencing gut bacteria. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Walnuts, flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds are also good plant sources of omega-3.
Reacquaint your immune system with microbes: work with soil, garden, play on a farm, go camping, open your windows, own a dog or cat, and get out in nature.
Modify high-stress lifestyles. It's essential to find relaxed states each day, especially when eating. High stress impacts intestinal barrier function, gut permeability, and microbiome composition.
Exercise! Recent studies show a correlation between exercise and a more diverse microbiome.
Scientists are continuously discovering more about our microbiome. Maintaining a diverse and balanced gut microbiome and a healthy, well-functioning gut lining is essential to overall health. Go ahead and add some greens, berries, and seeds to your SuperFood protein shake and love up your gut!
“Moises Velasquez-Manoff, “Among Trillions of Microbes in the Gut, A Few Are Special,” Scientific American, March 1, 2015,
“M. Conlon and A. Bird, “The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health,” Nutrients 7 (2014): 17–44.”
“Joanne Slavin, “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits,” Nutrients 5, no. 4 (2013): 1417–1435.”
Niamh Michail, “Lack of Diversity in Processed Foods May be Causing Obesity and Cancer,” FoodNavigator.com, May 20, 2015,