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Fri 3 May 2019

By Roberta Hutchins
Have you got a happy microbiome?

Did you know that you have at least as many microorganisms living on you and in your gut as you have your own body cells? It used to be thought that they outnumbered us by 10 to 1 but more recent research suggests it’s probably more of a 1 to 1 situation. Humans evolved from bacteria and almost every cell in our body contains mitochondria which are actually ancient remnants of bacteria that once lived freely, and are now the part of our cells that produces our energy. So, we have a population of living microorganisms called our microbiome, mainly bacteria, that live on our skin and in our digestive tract, and we have little battery packs that used to be bacteria producing the energy in our cells. Our mitochondria even have their own DNA that comes only from our mother and so is different to the rest of our DNA!

Our gut microbiome is very individual and even identical twins share less than 50% of the same species. It was thought that the microbiome is populated at birth, with babies born by caesarean starting off with a bit of a disadvantage. However, some recent research at a hospital in London has suggested a positive association between good gut bacteria in newborn meconium and the mother’s diet, including for the few months before pregnancy and during pregnancy, and is particularly related to the kind of fats she consumes – with the best results being in women with a good level of DHA, found in oily fish. A diet high in saturated fats and omega-6 fats, such as found in vegetable oils, was associated with bad bacteria in the newborns. A good microbiome at birth was also associated with good brain development – backing up current knowledge around the link between gut and brain health.

Our resident bugs – aka the microbiome – are involved in many of our body’s functions – and they actually contain at least 100 times as many genes as found in our human genome. They make vitamins, manage the uptake and deposition of body fat and convert the fruit and vegetables we eat into really useful stuff. The ‘good guys’ can also stop the ‘bad guys’ from causing trouble! The good news is that cocoa helps your good bacteria and reduces some of the bad guys – but do ensure you use 100% pure cocoa to make hot chocolate and not mixtures containing lots of sugar and milk powder, or enjoy some 90% dark chocolate! Green tea and berries are other great ways to support your ‘good guys’.

People with many different health problems, such as IBS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression have been found to have differences in gut bacteria when compared to healthy people. There are links between your microbiome, your gut health, immune system and your brain health and so it’s super important to keep ‘them’ happy! The ‘good guys’ have been shown to help reduce your stress response but they can also be upset by stress. So do look at how you can manage your stress levels or come along to discuss how I can help you with this.

Eating a diet high in vegetable fibre such as found in onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, spinach, avocado, cabbage, green leafy veg, courgettes, cucumber and artichokes is a great way to support a healthy microbiome. The fibre acts a prebiotic which means it feeds the good bacteria. A particular kind of fibre found in many fruits and vegetables, FOS, has been shown to improve glucose and insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation and body fat, as well as reduce the appetite-inducing hormone ghrelin. Some people can be a bit sensitive to fermentable fibre and have been advised to follow a low FODMAP diet – this can be helpful to manage symptoms in the short term but isn’t great for the microbiome if used long term. The best way to ensure you’re getting enough vegetables for all their many benefits is to aim for 5 to 10 portions a day – get some veg in at very meal – and focus on eating a rainbow. Perhaps set yourself a challenge to eat as many different plants of all the different colours as you can in a week – diversity of diet promotes a good diversity of the microbiome! 

If you would like to find out more or make an appointment to discuss how I can help you with your health, please call me on 07747 030629, email me: roberta.hutchins@zen.co.uk or visit my website www.bewelldevon.uk

You can also find me on social media at
Facebook @bewelldevon
Instagram @herba_roberta  

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