Building Your Microbiome with Vegetables
‘Microbiome’ is a common health buzzword these days, referring to the large population of bacteria, yeast, fungi and viruses in our bodies. Research is showing more and more that the gut microbiome plays a huge role not only in digestion, but also immune system regulation, mental health, hormonal balance, metabolism, etc. When the gut microbiome is balanced, people feel good, but when it’s not, a host of health issues can appear.
The great thing about the microbiome is that it can be improved! Many factors play a role in improving the health of the gut microbiome (stress, sleep, exercise, etc.), but the number one factor is diet. Every time you eat, you’re impacting the gut microbiome. Here are a number of ways that vegetables specifically make an impact:
1) Processed and sugary foods can cause damage to the intestinal lining and can feed yeast which affects the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract and can lead to other concerns. Planning your diet around vegetables and other whole foods will mean that you’re minimizing these processed and sugary alternatives.
2) Green leafy vegetables and other fibrous vegetables are prebiotics - food for the good bacteria to grow and thrive.
3) Vegetable species have their own individual microbiome, so eating a large variety of vegetables species can contribute to increased diversity in your own microbiome.
4) Good soil actually contains microorganisms. When you eat vegetables fresh from a farm that uses organic, sustainable agricultural practices, their soil will naturally contain many beneficial microorganisms. The little bits of remaining dirt are actually acting as a probiotic - beneficial bacteria for your microbiome. However, when 'eating dirt' (i.e. not scrubbing your vegetables) it's important to know where that dirt is coming from and that it's organic.
5) Getting dirty yourself is good for building the microbiome - visiting and volunteering at a local farm, or getting your hands dirty in your own backyard garden will exposure you to more beneficial organisms.
6) Fermented foods have large amounts of probiotics - beneficial bacteria. Take advantage of bulk vegetables and make some ferments!
Think about these things as we head into winter as a way to keep your immune system functioning well to fight pesky bugs!
*For someone with significant digestive or other health concerns these are a good start, but often need to be done alongside other therapies to stimulate digestion, promote intestinal repair, decrease inflammation, manage stress and eradicate infection. Always consult your medical professional about your own health concerns.*