You’ve got different microbiomes in your body and on your skin (peep our piece on the vaginal microbiome and its links with fertility here) but the largest of all of these is the gut microbiome – and it’s actually pretty incredible. From your digestion to your wider health, it plays a vital role in your general wellbeing.
But how exactly can you look to your gut microbiome to learn more about your health? How can gut bacteria and mental health possibly be connected? And do you need to eat a certain diet to maintain your ‘good bacteria’?
We’ve partnered with Bimuno, the trusted brand in gut health, to answer all of these questions and more. From spotting the symptoms of an unhealthy gut to how to improve gut microbiome over time, we break it down – together with Nutritional Therapist and Writer Eve Kalinik, partnering with Bimuno.
What is the gut microbiome?
Well, it’s essentially an entire ecosystem residing within you. Mostly comprised of bacteria with fungi, parasites, viruses and their genetic material in the mix, each of us has our own completely unique microbiome – so think of it rather like a fingerprint!
“The gut microbiome is now being considered an organ in its own right due to the myriad and far-reaching influence it has over many different systems in the body. This crucially includes digestion and absorption of nutrients from our food which seems obvious but it is a far more complex and arduous process which includes producing compounds such as bile acids and enzymes that aid the processing and conversion of nutrients from our food. Furthermore, they eat what we can’t digest in the form of dietary fibre.”, explains Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik.
Beyond digestion, our gut also has a marked impact on the functioning of our immune system, mood and hormones, as well as going as far as managing inflammation in our body. “Many people are surprised to learn that 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut and that 95% of our overall serotonin (often dubbed the happy neurotransmitter) is produced in our gut.”, says Eve.
Basically – what happens in our gut doesn’t just stay in our gut!
What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?
It turns out, there are quite a few. The most obvious indicator is experiencing digestive issues a little more often than you might like to. From excessive bloating and gas after meals (a bit of this is totally normal, by the way) and discomfort, to inconsistency with bowel movements, pale or floating stools and lack of satiety. A quick note here – if you do notice changes in bowel habits, blood or mucus in the stools or persistent bloating you should visit your GP to see what’s what.
But there might be more subtle symptoms too. Eve explains that food intolerances, fatigue, skin issues, mood changes and even a weakened immune system can all be signs that something isn’t quite right in there.
Gut health and your wellbeing
Even if you don’t have any of the symptoms above, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be thinking about the importance of gut health, and mindfully supporting your gut microbiome so it can perform all of its vital roles. Let’s get a little science-y for a sec.
Gut microbiome and physical health
“Our gut microbiome has a significant influence on a multitude of biochemical processes that include managing hunger and satiety hormones, as well as blood sugar levels and inflammation that can all contribute to metabolic health and weight management.” explains Eve.
Further, having too much oestrogen can contribute to the development of conditions related to reproductive health and infertility, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women – and it turns out that your gut is actually essential for regulating your oestrogen levels. “We have a subset of microbes called the estrobolome which impact the metabolism of oestrogen in the body. How efficiently oestrogen is excreted can impact overall hormone balancing, so having a healthy microbiome is crucial to this process.”, says Eve.
The gut-brain connection
Research shows us there can be a strong correlation between the health of your gut bacteria and mental health, including mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Eve explains, “Neurotransmitters like serotonin, and dopamine which create feelings of reward and GABA (an amino acid) which has an inhibitory ‘calming’ effect are not just created and stimulated in our brain but also in our gut, which may inadvertently impact our mood.”
Our gut microbiome also produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), which are beneficial substances generated by gut microbes when they ferment dietary fibre. These SCFA’s are incredibly important for many systems in the body, including the health of our gut barrier, which has been linked to cognitive health as well as managing inflammation more systemically. This may also be a factor in mood disorders such as depression.
How to improve gut microbiome
When it comes to how to improve your gut microbiome, there are a few really easy and actionable steps you can take. Nourishing your gut microbes begins with feeding them diverse and plentiful amounts of plant food. This includes all types of;
- Whole grains
“Eating the rainbow’ sounds a bit cliched, but it is an excellent representation of this”, explains Eve.
“Plus, this analogy means we naturally consume more in way of ‘phytochemicals’ which are special plant compounds that often give plants their colour and may also have a positive impact on the gut microbiome. Including prebiotic foods and a scientifically proven supplement like Bimuno can help to amplify this further and don’t forget about herbs and spices. Even the dried ones count, as these can often contain super high levels of phytochemicals.”
Alongside this, fermented foods provide excellent sources of beneficial bacteria and yeast which can have a positive impact on your gut microbiome.
Looking to take the first step towards supporting your gut health? Bimuno’s award-winning daily prebiotic supplements support your gut health by feeding the good bacteria and are backed by 20 years of scientific research. Trial them for one month, or dive in with a recurring subscription by clicking here.