We’ve always believed that if we eat well, we’ll feel good. And to be fair, that assumption is mostly valid. If we don’t fuel our bodies with nourishing, nutrient-rich foods, we won’t feel good in everyday life or reach our potential as athletes. However, some people eat right but still experience symptoms consistent with a poor diet. A healthy, balanced diet should thwart chronic fatigue, hair loss, elevated heart rate and GI discomfort. If you’re doing everything right but still have symptoms resembling Over Training Syndrome (OTS) or malnourishment, check your gut.
Around 100 trillion microbes, mostly bacteria, live in and on our body, mainly in our large intestine. Bacteria outnumber your own body cells by about 10:1. And their genes outnumber your genes by over 100:1. Collectively, they form our microbiome, which lines our stomach, small and large intestine.
We need the microbes lining our gut for digestion and to help us absorb vital nutrients and enzymes. They affect how we store fat, balance our blood glucose levels and can alter our response to hormones signaling hunger and satiety. Microbiomes also protect against disease-causing pathogens, controls hormones and trains your immune system. In fact, your gut has the largest number of immune and hormone cells in the body. And, crucially, you can influence how well it does these things.
If our microbiomes are unbalanced or unhealthy, it doesn’t matter how well or how much we eat. Pristine, by the book diets will still be met with frustrating and seemingly inexplicable fatigue.
So what can we do about it? Here are four tips to keep your gut healthy
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals
Drinking a glass of water mixed with one to three teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar before a meal may improve digestion and nutrient assimilation by increasing hydrochloric acid, which promotes the activation of enzymes crucial to digestion in our intestine.
Recently, I learned I was experiencing malabsorption syndrome, meaning I was not absorbing any of the nutrients I was ingesting due to an unhealthy gut. My physician recommended I drink apple cider vinegar before every meal, diluted with water to taste. If you are sensitive to the vinegar, swish water immediately after drinking to avoid irritation to the enemal and esophagus.
Eat Unprocessed And Anti-inflammatory Foods
We’ve all heard about the havok processed foods wreak on our stomachs. They’re often high in sugar, salt, trans or saturated fats, additives and preservatives and lack the nutrition of real foods. Refined, white starchy carbs such as white flour, bread, pasta and rice offer much less for the microbiome than their whole grain, unprocessed alternatives. As a result, they’re much harder for us to digest. Sugar and processed foods easily convert to sugars, which suppress beneficial bacteria and can allow unhealthy microbes to take over, leading to inflammation and GI discomfort.
Feed Your Biome
What you eat doesn’t just feed you, it feeds the biomes in your intestine too. Certain foods act like fertilizer for your gut in our microbiome, feeding the enzymes essential for digestion. These biome fertilizers, known as prebiotics, contain components that encourage the growth of gut bacteria. These are foods made up of a form of indigestible fiber, which end up in the large intestine, where they provide a feast for waiting microbes. Fibrous fruit and vegetables are top sources, as are whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Focus on Fermentation
Fermented food and drinks contain live bacteria and yeasts called probiotics that survive the digestive tract and help increase the microbiome flourish. There are many ways to enjoy fermented products, and they’re becoming fashionable as the health benefits are more widely reported. Get your fill of probiotics in yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables or pickles and kombucha. Even aged, unpasteurized cheese and red wine will benefit the microbiome. If you’re having trouble getting probiotics in your food or feel like your GI-tract needs a little something extra, a daily probiotic supplement can help restore the ideal balance of your microbiome, and by extension, improve digestion, immune health and chronic fatigue.