The Gut Microbiome: Get to Know Your Second Brain

We’ll be real with you: the gut is a complex topic. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, is your “second brain” aka your gut microbiome. The mind-gut connection is not just a metaphor. Our brain and gut are connected by neurons, chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, if we’re experiencing stress or if we’re fighting bad bacteria.

But what exactly is it?

Our gut microbiome is what we call all the living organisms and cells in our gastro tract. This affects many aspects of your body, from metabolism to cardiovascular system to nervous system to immune system.

How can you support it?

The best way to promote a healthy gut microbiome is increasing the diversity of plant-based foods in your diet. No, you do not need to be 100% plant-based in order to improve your gut health, but changing up the variety of vegetables and fruits you eat will help give you the microbial ecosystem your body needs to thrive. One of the key benefits of increasing your plant-based food intake is from fibre.

What should you add to your diet?

High-fibre vegetables and fruits: raspberries, artichokes, green peas, broccoli, bananas, leeks, brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.

Fermented foods: almond yogurt, coconut kefir, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, pickles, cultured vegetables, kombucha, tempeh, miso and kimchi.

Nuts, beans and legumes: almonds, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans and white beans.

Whole grains: oats, quinoa, barley, brown rice and popcorn.

What about supplements?

Adding prebiotic and probiotic supplements to your diet is also a great way to improve your gut health. What’s the difference?

Prebiotics = a component of some foods that your body cannot digest. They serve as food for bacteria and other beneficial organisms in the gut.

Probiotics = living strains of bacteria that add to the population of good bacteria in your digestive system.

Do I need to take supplements if I’m already eating a wide range of plant-based foods?

It’s difficult to get all the prebiotics and probiotics you need from diet alone. Most of us don’t have a perfect gut microbiome. Everything from antibiotics to high-carb diets to being born via a C-section can compromise the balance of bacteria in our microbiome. Supplementing with a prebiotic and probiotic can help to restore gut imbalances and keep your immune system healthy.

What’s the connection between the immune system and gut health?

There’s good and bad bacteria in your gut (and everywhere else). Our gut microbiome can become unbalanced when there is too much bad bacteria. This can confuse the immune system causing it to start attacking healthy cells. If your immune system is busy reacting to healthy cells, not only is it easier for you to get sick, it's also harder for your body to recover.

The takeaway

If you want to stay healthy, prevent disease and recover faster from illness, pay attention to your gut.