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Keep your gut healthier with these tips from a microbiome expert



Your body is populated by nearly 40 trillion bacteria – that’s worth almost half a pound – and researchers have begun to uncover all of the roles they play in how you feel. These microbes – collectively known as your microbiome – are linked to many facets of health, including a healthy gut.

While scientists like Jack Gilbert, Ph.D., 43, co-founder of the American Gut Project, don’t know exactly which strains will help you with what, they do know that as many types of microbes as possible are linked to better health – including improved ones Mood, fitness performance and recovery, and heart health, as well as a better immune system and improved cancer treatment results. He told us what he is doing to protect and strengthen his microbiome inside and outside the gut.

1
) Eat 20 different types of plants per week

I eat foods made from at least 20 different plants every week. It sounds like a lot, but I can put a few things in my morning smoothies or lunch salads. Plants aren’t limited to fruits and vegetables. Beans, nuts and whole grains also count – they just have to grow out of the ground. My research team and I came up with this number after surveying more than 15,000 people about what they ate in a week. Those who consumed foods made from more than 20 plants had more microbial diversity and fewer bad bacteria in their gut. Diversity seems to matter when it comes to how well your microbiome is working for you.

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2) Don’t worry if you try to eat lots of fermented foods

I don’t top up fermented foods like Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. While they provide beneficial bacteria (probiotics), I cover my basics by getting plant variety in my diet. Plus, not everyone can tolerate dairy products, crave cabbage, or be ready to rush five dollars for craft books – or want the sugars they often contain. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria that can cause inflammation.

3) Wash your body strategically

My rule of thumb is to wash my pits and private ones. The rest of our skin contains good bacteria that are washed off with soap. I don’t use antibacterial soaps – not even during this pandemic – so as not to promote microbial resistance. I wash my hands with warm water and regular soap and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when I’m out. It’s enough.

4) Pass on probiotic supplements

This may come as a surprise, but I don’t take probiotics. There is research that claims it can help people with depression, irritable bowel syndrome, or eczema, but there is very little evidence to suggest that it will alter the gut blood flow in the average healthy person. I also don’t take prebiotics. You get the good microbes from the variety of foods in your intestines.

5) Put your hands in the dirt

It is believed that a little dirt trains children’s immune systems to resist harmful bacteria. I think that as adults we can “educate” our systems by putting our hands in the ground. The microbes from the soil invade through the skin and the particles we breathe. I love tinkering in my yard and picking avocados, oranges and figs that go straight to my smoothies for the ultimate profit.

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