Supporting a Happy and Healthy Microbiome

There is so much to love about bacteria! Did you know for every single human cell in your body, there are 10 bacterial cells?! That’s a lot of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (making up the gut microbiome), on your skin, on mucous membranes, in your lungs, and on any other body surface that is exposed to the outside world. We tend to think of bacteria as bad (and don’t get me wrong, there are harmful bacteria out there) but there is also a plethora of good bacteria that keep us healthy, nourished, and disease-free. Our bodies need our microbiome to survive and our microbiome needs us to survive, so we work together to survive and thrive.

How we help our microbiome:

  • We nourish our gut microbiome with the foods we eat. In addition, goblet cells in our intestinal tract create mucus, which the bacteria consume.
  • Our lower intestinal tract is void of oxygen, which is necessary for the survival of anaerobic bacteria.
  • We create a warm, dark, moist place for the bacteria to flourish.

How our microbiome helps us:

  • Our gut bacteria are quite good at taking up space, leaving no room for bad bacteria to take up residence. If you have ever received an antibiotic, it has killed some of the gut microbiome, leaving space for bacteria that aren’t typically in our microbiome to come in and potentially wreak havoc.
  • Our gut microbiome can actively fight off pathogenic bacteria.
  • Our gut microbiome helps us to digest foods that are too hard for our own bodies to digest, such as fiber and complex carbohydrates. By doing this, the bacteria create short chain fatty acids which our colon cells use as energy.
  • Bacteria in the gut synthesize vitamin K which is mainly used to help our blood clot.
  • Our microbiota teaches our immune system which bacteria are helpful and which bacteria are harmful. In doing so, the immune system learns to discriminate between the different types of bacteria to create an immune response to the appropriate microbes.

Ways to support a healthy gut microbiome:

  • Eat fiber and complex carbohydrates to feed the microbiome. This means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. We can actually starve and kill off healthy bacteria in our microbiome by not eating fiber and complex carbs.
  • Eat probiotic rich foods, such as sauerkraut, sourdough, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, miso.
  • Avoid the use of antibiotics when possible. And take a probiotic supplement if you do have to receive an antibiotic.
  • Avoid use of hand sanitizer and wash your hands instead.
  • Spend time in nature with your hands and feet in the dirt.
  • If you have the ability, grow your own organic food and eat foods right out of your garden.
  • Engage in movement everyday.

Living Life As A Busy Bee: Adding Movement Into Your Life

Even though most of our lives are really busy, we are often busy with activities that keep us sitting in a chair, being indoors, and mostly leading sedentary lives. We are all like busy bees minus all the movement that busy bees do all day every day! Our bodies need movement for our muscles and bones to be strong, healthy, and supportive to the rest of our bodies. Our circulatory system, digestive system, immune system, lymphatic system, respiratory system, and frankly all our systems REQUIRE movement to function properly. So I decided to create a list of ideas to increase movement into your busy-as-a-bee life! Try them all and see which ones are the most sustainable to keep up! Try picking three to do on a consistent basis.

Movement Ideas:

  1. Do heel lifts/calf raises when you are brushing your teeth.
  2. When you are flossing your top teeth, balance on your right foot. When you are flossing your bottom teeth, balance on your left foot.
  3. While waiting at a stop lights, retract your shoulders as you breath in and protract your shoulders as you breath out.
  4. Go for a ten minute walk outdoors with your family when you are done eating dinner together.
  5. Turn on music and dance around as you cook dinner
  6. When you are vacuuming, exercise those vocal cords by singing out your favorite tune. The vacuum is roaring so no one will hear you!
  7. As you are sitting down at work, to watch TV, or to drive your car, do Kegel exercises. To do Kegel exercises, contract your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds and then release for 5 seconds. Repeat as many times as you want.
  8. Every time a commercial comes on, get up from the couch and do whatever form of movement you want. You could keep weights in your living room or a yoga mat to help assist you in this movement.
  9. When you wake up in the morning, exercise your breathing muscles by taking 5-10 deep, intentional breaths.
  10. If you have a job that requires sitting all day, set a timer on your phone to get up out of your chair every 30 minutes to do 5 squats.
  11. During your lunch break at work, get outside and go for a walk if you have time.
  12. Every night before bed, stretch whatever in your body feels like it needs some stretching. Maybe do this with your spouse, your parents, your kids, or your siblings. You could take turns choosing different stretches to do together.
  13. When you are talking our the phone, put the phone on speaker phone and do neck stretches and neck rolls.
  14. If you have the option to take the stairs versus the elevator or escalator, always choose the stairs!
  15. Turn meetings into walk-and-talk meetings by walking around in your nearest park.
  16. When you go up the stairs, go up as many different ways you can think of; hop the entire way up the stairs, take the stairs 3 at a time, with each step do a squat, grapevine up the stairs, with each step do a heel lift.
  17. Instead of your usual evening routine, make a playlist of dance songs and have a family dance party!
  18. Come up with your own ideas and message them to Mother Earth Medicine so I can add them to the list.

Happy Movement you Busy Bees!