By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
If you’re health-conscious or even if you are not, you may have heard about the benefits of a healthy microbiome or a healthy gut. If you are wondering what this means, you are not alone.
What is a microbiome?
By definition, a microbiome is a natural environment that houses microorganisms. The human digestive system is a microbiome and it includes the stomach, intestines, and colon. Inside of the human digestive system is a mass population of microorganisms and healthy bacteria that help break down food.
Like any other environment, the microbiome can be healthy or unhealthy and you can control the health of your microbiome. Two factors primarily drive the health of the human microbiome and those two factors are diet and exercise. Currently, groundbreaking research has outlined how this environment, when healthy, can significantly influence our overall health.
Exercise improves the gut microbiome
First, a recent research study found that exercise significantly improved the gut microbiome throughout six weeks of exercise. More notably, after subjects discontinued exercise, any exercise-related changes in positive gut health disappeared.
This research emphasizes how exercise can effectively enhance gut health, in turn, a healthier gut can also improve metabolism and your daily energy levels.
Eating plant-based foods more important than exercise
Second, consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods maybe even more important than exercise. In addition to eating different colored plant-based foods, you should avoid processed carbohydrates.
Many experts and researchers suggest that people should eat plants that are deep green, blue, purple, yellow, red and orange. Eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is good because the different pigments themselves are very healthy for your body and your microbiome.
Here are three very useful goals for you to think about as you work towards a healthier microbiome.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Every. Single. Day! Research strongly suggests that diets rich in fruits and vegetables robustly decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Every. Single. Day! That’s right, 3-4 days per week is good, but every day is better. While your exercise should be different from day to day, your goal should be to exercise 7 days per week.
Stop buying and eating processed carbohydrates and sugar foods
Part of improving your gut health is not just what you put in it, but also what you avoid eating. Many experts view processed carbohydrates as toxic foods for our digestive system.
*Before starting/ changing a diet program, consult with a healthcare provider and/or registered dietitian
Mitchell, Cassie., et al. “Does Exercise Alter Gut Microbial Composition? A Systematic Review.” Medicine Science in Sport and Exercise. 2019, DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001760.
Allen, Jacob M., et al. “Exercise alters gut microbiota composition and function in lean and obese humans.” Urbana 51 (2017): 61801.
Manach, Claudine, et al. “Addressing the inter‐individual variation in response to consumption of plant food bioactives: Towards a better understanding of their role in healthy aging and cardiometabolic risk reduction.” Molecular nutrition & food research 61.6 (2017): 1600557.
Mellendick, Kevan, et al. “Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk in adolescents.” Nutrients 10.2 (2018): 136.
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