Listen to your gut! This simple, well-known saying isn't just about intuition and following instincts. If you listen closely your gut is actually speaking to you about your physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness. At Provenance, gut health is always on our minds when we develop our menu each week to ensure that our plant-based and omnivore options are packed with ingredients to nourish your microbiome.
But what the heck is a microbiome you ask? And why should we nourish it? To learn more, we sat down with functional and integrative medicine expert and Provenance Meals Wellness Partner, Dr. Frank Lipman of Be Well and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center to share more details on what this idea of "Gut Health" is all about.
What exactly is the "microbiome" and why have we been hearing so much about gut bacteria in relation to our health?
Dr Frank Lipman: The microbiome is the community of bacteria that lives within every one of us. Each of us contains a whole inner ecosystem composed of trillions of microbes. These bacteria outnumber our human cells by a factor of 10 to 1, so we are actually more bacteria than human!
We start developing our microbiome in the womb, acquiring more bacteria as we pass through the birth canal and through breastfeeding. As we grow, we continue to gather more bacteria through food, water, our environment, and the people we come in contact with. These bacteria can be good, bad, or a mix of the two. In a healthy body, there is a balance of good and bad bacteria, with the good outweighing the bad.
The microbial community within our body is absolutely crucial in maintaining optimal function, or really, any function at all. They work to digest food, support the immune system, protect your gut, help to maintain a healthy weight, and fight inflammation throughout the body. When you microbiome is balanced, most other things in your body go right, but when you eat the wrong kinds of foods, are exposed to toxins, don't get enough sleep, don't manage stress, or take too many medications, you can throw your microbiome out of balance. As a result, many other things can go wrong as well, including problems with digestion, immune function, hormones, and your ability to process thought and emotion.
Why do gluten, dairy and refined sugars wreak havoc on the gut?
Dr Frank Lipman: Gluten, factory-farmed dairy, and refined sugars impair our microbiome by causing a disruption of the good and bad bacteria, usually leading to a state if imbalance. Although many think of digestive symptoms as normal — doesn’t “everyone” have a bit of gas or bloating? — in functional medicine, these symptoms can be the first signs of a compromised microbiome. These foods have also been correlated to leaky gut, which is when the lining of our gut wall is compromised, causing spaces that allow bacteria, toxins and pieces of the partially digested food to “leak” through. This often triggers systemic inflammation that can produce symptoms almost anywhere in the body.
What are the top two simple things our readers can do daily to start improving their gut health?
Dr Frank Lipman: First, show your microbiome some love by feeding it with probiotic rich foods, like good, old-fashioned, fermented foods (preferably organic and raw). These fermented goodies like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and pickled veggies encourage the growth of good bacteria. I would also recommend adding some pre-biotic foods, which are non-digestible short-chain fatty acids that help your good bacteria flourish. Prebtioic foods include artichokes, garlic, onions, asparagus, and the stems and stalks of almost all vegetables - so don't be scared to eat your kale and broccoli stems!
Second, take a good quality probiotic supplement that provides your microbiome with an abundance of live, beneficial organisms, which keeps digestion, immunity and overall health on track. Look for probiotics that deliver 20-50 billion live organisms per dose and contain a combination of different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Be Well Probiotics contain the 5 best-researched, most viable and stable strains bacteria known today. Take probiotics as directed, once or twice a day.
How does functional or integrative medicine differ from conventional medicine?
Dr Frank Lipman: Functional medicine is a practice of medicine that addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century by focusing on prevention and uncovering the underlying causes of serious chronic disease. It is less concerned with making a diagnosis and more concerned with the underlying imbalances, which are the mechanisms of the disease process. Functional Medicine incorporates the latest scientific research about how our genetics, environment, and lifestyle all interact with each other to diagnose and treat disease processes based on patterns of imbalance and dysfunction, rather than treating the disease specifically. It treats the person who has the disease rather than the disease the person has. As opposed to Western Medicine, Functional medicine provides a framework for the practice of medicine that uses all the tools of healing, both conventional and alternative, to address the whole person rather than an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine provides a new way of thinking about prevention, public health, wellness and treatment of chronic disease that can lead to better outcomes and lower healthcare costs.
What's your favorite self-care practice?
Dr Frank Lipman: My favorite self-care practice is meditation. It is something I practice daily and often recommend to patients due to the wide variety of benefits it has on both the body and mind.
Thank you, Dr. Lipman! In conclusion, we at Provenance take gut health seriously, and are here to support you if you suspect that gut imbalance may be at the root of your food sensitivities, skin conditions, immune conditions, or chronic illness. If any of this post resonated with you, try a diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics and free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugars with us. And when you commit to clean with organic, sustainable meals, you'll not only enjoy eating the most nutrient-dense meals around, you'll restore the balance in your microbiome that is so essential to good health. Explore your options here, and don't forget to add a daily probiotic to your order before you check out.
About Dr. Frank Lipman - A pioneer in functional and integrative medicine, Dr. Frank Lipman is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and the author of many New York Times-bestselling books, including 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, The New Health Rules. and Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again.