A hot area of research in the last few years proves that the micro-organisms in our gut can affect everything from our mood to immune system function. Find out here how to boost your overall health easily through gut health management.
What is the gut microbiome?
Your gut microbiome is the collection of micro-organisms, including bacteria, fungi and protozoa, that live in your gastrointestinal tract. There are around 100 trillion of these inside your gut right at this moment. That’s ten times more than there are human cells in your entire body! Think of it as a delicately balanced eco-system living within you. It can keep you healthy when the balance is maintained or make you sick when it goes off kilter.
Evolving alongside us over millions of years, we have come to rely on our intestinal flora for many vital bodily functions. There are micro-organisms that create fatty acids used to regulate hormone production, appetite, and blood sugar levels. Thereby reducing our risk of experiencing low energy, getting type 2 diabetes and suffering from colonic cancer.
There are micro-organisms that make essential vitamins for us, like the B vitamins and Vitamin K. As well as micro-organisms that are linked with lower levels of stress and greater emotional stability. Conversely, there are micro-organisms that are associated with speedier furring of our arteries and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Getting the right balance in your gut flora, then, is all-important to ensuring optimum health.
How do I get a healthy microbiome?
So, what constitutes a healthy microbiome and how do you get one? In a nutshell, a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome that has lots of different kinds of micro-organisms living in harmony without just one or two types playing the tyrant. By far the easiest and most effective way to ensure that this happens is through your diet.
You see, the food that we eat isn’t just feeding us, it is feeding our gut flora too. And, since different types of micro-organisms thrive on different types of food, we can boost or shrink the numbers of individual types of gut bacteria with what we choose to put into our mouths.
Generally, eating a varied diet with lots of different types of plant matter and dietary fibre supports diversity and has positive health benefits, while feasting on large amounts of saturated fat, protein and sugar creates an imbalance which can lead to illness.
How to grow your own for greater gut health
With this in mind, let’s think about how growing your own can support you in your efforts to create a diverse microbiome which benefits your overall health.
Stock up on Plants
First, you will need a ready supply of plants. If you want a harmonious microbiome then there are no two ways about it – you need to eat lots of plants. And what better way to ensure that you eat lots of plants than to grow your own so that there’s always a ready supply on your doorstep? The fantastic news is that you can start planning at any time of the year.
Second, growing your own can be a great way to increase variety in your and your family’s diet. Whereas your local supermarket is likely to stock the same limited range of common fruits and vegetables throughout the year, you’ve got the choice to try some more diverse options. Growing your own is an easy way to expand your diet to include varieties that you won’t otherwise find in the shops.
For maximum variety, you could also swap produce with willing allotment keepers and neighbours so that a few of your cape gooseberries are exchanged for some of their boysenberries, your yellow courgettes for their edemame beans and so on. If you’re new to allotment keeping, you’ll find that seasoned grow your owners are often open to deals like these. When you get good at it, you can often end up with a glut of produce that you’re only too happy to share, especially if you get something delicious back in return.
If you’re not sure what to grow for good gut health, go by colour – different colours in fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of different compounds, And these, in turn, feed different types of micro-organisms in your gut. This is a great strategy for young children as well – grow, and then challenge them to eat an entire rainbow of colours every day.
For those of us with fussy eaters, you may also be interested to know that research by Cornell University shows that kids are more likely to eat their food when they’ve got 6 different colours on their plate. So, this approach is great for getting them to eat in a way that ensures good balance in their gut bacteria.
With a healthy gut microbiome playing such a huge role in our health, growing your own bumper crop of unusual plant varieties is not only a fun pastime, but also an excellent way to maximise wellbeing. Get growing your own today!
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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