Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nourish Your Microbiome!

Week 4 is here! Everyone has hopefully been making some significant changes in their eating patterns. By now the 9 cups of water per day are apart of your routine, and vegetables are taking up ½ of your plate or more at your meals. You have come a long way and you should be proud of that!! Taking those steps alone will make a huge impact on your health and overall wellbeing. However, now that baseline eating patterns have been met, I am going to start highlighting ways to spruce up your healthy plates for more specific benefits. Therefore, now we are going to move into nourishing your GUT!

Listen to your “GUT FEELING”……

Did you know that your gut is considered your second brain? And that the emotions you feel throughout your day can impact the way you digest and absorb the foods you eat? Also, vice versa, the foods you eat can directly impact your emotional status! WOW! That is why supporting your gut health, is vital in helping to restore imbalances throughout your body, whether they are mental or physical. Now there is a true meaning to having a “GUT FEELING”. For instance, if the gut becomes inflamed, it can show itself in more ways than just diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating. Other signs of imbalance include mental fog, depression, decreased immunity, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, as well as food allergies and intolerances.  If the gut is inflamed, its ability to digest and absorb all the wonderful nutrients within your food greatly diminishes, leading to a further decrease in health. In order to obtain all the nutrients needed for optimal health we must have a healthy gut that can properly digest and absorb the foods we eat, and a vital part of a happy and healthy gut, is having a healthy gut flora!

Getting to know you MICROBIOME and GUT FLORA:

The human micrbiome is considered to be all of the bacteria that share our outer body space, including our skin and our entire gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, the stomach, and small and large intestines. The gut flora on the other hand, are specifically the bacteria that co-inhabit our intestines, mainly our colon, and can weigh up to 4 pounds! Interestingly, every microbiome is unique to each individual, and is affected directly by diet, stress, and environmental factors. There is growing evidence that an imbalance, or otherwise known as dysbiosis, of our gut flora can be associated with disease, including inflammation, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.

However, luckily we can influence what types of bacteria reside in our gut through diet and lifestyle modification. Research has found that dietary changes can quickly change the types of bacteria that call your gut home. By promoting the growth of “friendly” bacteria you can simultaneously weed out the “bad” and consequently increase health. Therefore, taking the steps to nurture your own microbiome will naturally enhance your quality of life as well as your mood!

Growing protective “friendly” bacteria:

By reducing refined foods, sugar, and alcohol, and by increasing fruits, vegetables, fiber rich whole grains, beans, and legumes, you can support the growth of your friendly gut bacteria.  By simply replacing a Western diet with one that is high in plant based foods and fiber, can start you off in the right direction. However, long-term compliance to a plant-based diet is required to grow, establish, and nourish your gut microbiome. Below you will find great examples of foods to incorporate into your daily routine.

In many cultures, fermented foods are apart of the general diet. These fermented foods contain live cultures of “friendly” bacteria that when consumed help establish the growth of these colonies within our colon. Following are some wonderful examples of probiotic rich foods.
  • Plain unsweetened cultured dairy (yogurt or kefir)
  • Fermented veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut, etc)
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Miso

Some plant foods are especially high in prebiotics, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that promote the growth and activity of “friendly” bacteria in our colon. The difference between prebiotics and probiotics, is that probiotics help establish cultures within our colon, while the prebiotics fuel these cultures. Some examples rich in prebiotics are below.
  • Asparagus
  • Sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke)
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Oatmeal
  • Legumes
  • Leeks
  • Onions 

All plant foods contain fiber. Fiber helps transport healthy bacteria to your colon, and also acts as an energy source for their survival. Although we cannot digest fiber, our friendly gut flora can, fueling their growth and also simultaneously fueling our gut cells with their by-products. It is a win-win situation! Besides fueling the “friendly” bacteria, fiber has many other beneficial properties; it helps promote regularity and ease constipation, increases satiety, improves blood sugar control, reduces cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Try adding the following fiber rich foods into your diet.
  • Enjoy 1 cup of beans/legumes per day.
    • Lentils, beans, chickpeas, edamame, split pea, etc.
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds for their added fiber; especially flax and chia.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined white grains for added fiber and nutrients.
  • Avocados are a great source of fiber and healthy fats.

Alright so here is your 4th Challenge!!!
Now that you are trained master gardeners, lets start cultivating, growing, and nourishing your gut microbiome.  Here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.

Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

SuperGreen Chia Pudding

Making this chia pudding is a great way to kickstart your day and nourish your "friendly" bacteria. With plain greek yogurt, chia seeds, banana, and berries, this pudding has all the prebiotics, probiotics, and other goodies inside to keep your belly happy. And yes, with a couple handfuls of spinach, there is a serving of vegetables inside. I love to make a batch, put it in two mason jars, and have it ready to go for the early morning work days. Then all you have to do in the morning is add the granola and fresh berries.

Makes 2 servings

1 medium banana
1 cup plain organic Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 handfuls baby spinach
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt
5 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup of your favorite granola
Fresh berries ( I used raspberries)


Place the banana, yogurt, almond milk, baby spinach, maple syrup, and sea salt into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and stir in the chia seeds. Cover the bowl and place into the refrigerator. Let the mixture sit for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Spoon the mixture evenly into two mason jars, or serving glasses, and top with your favorite granola and fresh berries. Enjoy!

Optional: If you like your pudding a little less thick, just add in a bit more almond milk. You can also drizzle some coconut cream over the berries for added flavor.
Variation: I am guessing a steamed and peeled beet would taste delicious as well in place of the spinach.

Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on wild caught salmon or sardines, fresh or canned.
  • Stock up on flaxseeds. Purchase them whole if you have a coffee grinder at home you can use, or purchase pre-ground, and store in the refrigerator. 
  • Purchase quality unrefined extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and/or organic unsalted butter.
  • Throw out any oils that you have at home that are pale yellow in color, do not have a smell nor taste, and are in a clear plastic bottle. 

1. Mayer EA, Savidge T, Shulman RJ. Brain-Gut Microbiome Interactions and Functional Bowel Disorders. Gastroenterology. 2014;146:1500-1512.
2. Bischoff SC. ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine?. BMC Medicine. 2011:9:24.
3. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients. 2015;7:17-44.
4. Moreno-Indias I, Cardona F, Tinahones FJ, Queipo-Ortuno MI. Impact of the gut microbiota on the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2014;5(190):1-10.
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