Why Your Gut Microbiome Needs 50-200 Different Plant Foods Monthly
What do humans, animals, plants, and even the ocean have in common? They each have a community of microorganisms called the microbiome living together inside of them, using their bodies as a habitat.
Our microbiome is everywhere in our bodies- on our skin, in our mouths, in our gut. Our intestinal microbiota, or gut flora, and the gut barrier determine gut health.
Inside the gut are about 100 trillion live microorganisms that promote normal gastrointestinal function, protect the body from infection, and regulate metabolism and the mucosal immune system.This living community has a huge role in keeping us healthy.
It is important to keep our microbiome abundant with a variety of different good bacteria and their food is the fiber we eat…more variety of veggies and fruits = more variety of good bacteria!!
Some of the strong influencers that negatively impact microbiome’s diversity are:
- Pharmaceutical use
- Antibiotics (trace amounts in industrial meat and cheese and oral therapy)
- Limited diets and low nutrition (Standard American Diet)
- Sex hormone imbalance
- Environmental toxins
- Cesarean at birth
With the presence of these factors, your gut microbiome becomes out of balance, less versatile, more compromised, and less diverse. This in turn makes you more at risk for health issues such as asthma, allergies, and autoimmunity. Unfortunately, autoimmunity and allergies are a direct result of a disrupted microbiome.
Inarguably the factor that has the greatest impact on our gut microbiome is diet. In fact, you can change and promote your microbiome by increasing plant nutrition diversity and quantity.
Plant-based food is the fuel that our gut bacteria need to thrive. Diets that are high in healthy, plant-based foods are found to promote beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The bacteria use plant fibers as their fuel and do things that we like such as make vitamins, inhibit bad bacterial/fungal growth, and interface with our immune system. Keeping them well-fed should be a high priority for optimizing immune function.
The best way to do that is by giving our gut bacteria a wide variety of plant species for their food. Since most of us eat the same 10-20 foods repetitively and have a diet high in sugar and meat, this can become a serious problem.
It has been shown that diets that are high in plant products and low in animal products are significantly more beneficial to our gut microbiome’s diversity than diets that are low in plant products and high in animal products.
This is because plant-based diets promote the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that feed our intestinal cells and promote healthy gut flora.
Each fruit and vegetable has a varying amount of beneficial plant chemicals that are essential in the health of our gut microbiome.
The more we limit our diets and stick to the same foods, the more we will decrease the diverse fuel needed to support a healthy gut microbiome. This will have a negative impact on our immune system and overall health and well-being.
Some of the symptoms that are indicative that your gut microbiome is out of balance include:
- inconsistent stool consistency/frequency
- gas (especially foul-smelling gas)
- skin issues
- respiratory issues
- weight gain or weight loss
- brain fog
- Low energy
Here at The Healing Center, we often start with shifting your diet. This includes determining which foods a patient reacts to and removing those reactive foods from the diet. This occurs in conjunction with replacing some of the good bacteria and killing off bad pathogens using a number of tools available. In some cases, we have seen the complete elimination of certain allergies and asthma.
A way to pack in as many healthy vegetables as possible is to use a mixture of vegetables as a base for your recipes. Below we have included a veggie mash recipe that will allow you to increase your vegetable diversity in any meal and will help feed your gut microbiome what it needs to stay healthy, diverse, and abundant with good bacteria.
Veggie Mash Recipe
At the grocery store, find 15 to 20 organic, fibrous vegetables. Wash and clean them, and put small batches into your food processor to break them down to a pulp. Put all the small batches into a large missing bowl and mix well. Your veggie mash might include items and quantities such as this:
- 3 celery sticks
- 6 small brussels sprouts
- 1 small summer squash
- 5 kale leaves with stems
- Handful of spinach
- 3 carrots with tops
- 5 asparagus spears
- 1 baby bok choy
- 1 beet with greens (be sure to chop this into larger chunks so your food processor can handle it)
- Half a crown of broccoli
- Wedges of red and green cabbage
- 3 Swiss chard leaves
- Handful of sugar snap peas and/or green beans
Then include bunches of fresh herbs for flavor, including some of the following:
- parsley, thyme, sweet basil, Thai basil, cilantro, rosemary, fennel, and dill
Note: You can make a large quantity of the Mash, then freeze portions for later use in a variety of recipes.
Go veggie wild! Allow yourself to be creative with this recipe. You might also consider fennel bulb, cauliflower, broccoli rabe, zucchini, mint, radishes, fresh lima beans, and more.
This Veggie Mash can be used in omelets, salads, loaves, veggie burgers, and a variety of other delicious recipes.
Remember- plant-based diet diversity = microbiome diversity! An amazing way to promote a healthy, thriving gut microbiome is to eat a variety of veggies. Have fun! Get creative! The living community of organisms in your gut will be glad you did!
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If your mood is feeling off, or you are experiencing stubborn health issues such as thyroid symptoms, digestive issues or autoimmune conditions, give us a call at (303) 721-8900 to schedule a 15-minute consultation with our Denver Functional Medicine specialists.
We look forward to helping you heal your physical and energetic imbalances that are sabotaging your health and wellbeing.
Contributed to by Dr. Marie Starling, Katie Kelly, and Mary Ann Tate
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