The 4 Keys to a Healthy Gut Microbiome

The bacteria living in the GI tract or “gut microbiome” are so critically important to a healthy body and mind. And it doesn’t take much to maintain a healthy gut microbiome — start with these 4 simple steps!

This post is sponsored by Kyo-Dophilus though all thoughts and opinions are of course my own. I only partner with companies that I wholeheartedly believe in and whose products I trust — I’ve been using Kyo-Greens for years and recently added Kyo-Dophilus to my probiotic rotation! Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for me to continue offering free content on Body Unburdened!


We modern humans are pretty darn anti bacteria.

I mean, we carry little bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere and pop antibiotics at the first sniffle.

probiotics

But I’ve got a fun fact for you: the bacteria in your body outnumber the cells in your body by 10 to 1. Yes, we have 10 times more bacteria than human cells in our bodies.

Now before you get the heebie-jeebies, know that these bacteria cells are much smaller than our body cells and so collectively only weight about 4 pounds, and they’re mostly concentrated in our large intestine where they’re collectively known as our “gut microbiome.”

And most importantly…


The gut microbiome impacts health far beyond digestion.

Hippocrates was definitely onto something when he stated “all disease begins in the gut” over 2,000 years ago.

(This is the same man who said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Yes, we like him.)

The healthy bacteria in our gut microbiome:

  • Aid digestion and help the body absorb nutrients.
  • Promote a healthy inflammatory response.
  • Are critical for a healthy immune system since 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut.
  • Synthesize healing short-chain fatty acids and a number of vital nutrients (including biotin and vitamin K2).
  • Promote healthy cholesterol levels and can lower blood pressure.
  • Improve anxiety and depression. This isn’t surprising given that 95% of the body’s serotonin — a.k.a. “the happy hormone” — is produced in the gut!

“Bad bacteria” and unhealthy yeasts also live in our digestive tracts. In a healthy body, they’re kept in check by the good bacteria, but it’s a delicate balance. So we need to be sure that we’re properly nourishing the good bacteria and keeping the bad bacteria under control. Otherwise, the bad bacteria can overpopulate the gut’s microbiome: a condition called dysbiosis. This imbalance can cause a number of acute and chronic health issues, including:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • IBS
  • Low energy/ chronic fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Inflammatory skin issues like acne, eczema, and dermatitis

The 4 Keys to a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Repopulate the gut with probiotics and probiotic-rich foods

Try to get at least 1, ideally 2, servings of probiotic-rich foods into your diet daily. This includes:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickled vegetables

But since a lot of the yogurts and kefirs sold in most grocery stores contain a lot of heavily processed ingredients (from the pasteurized milk to the sugar or artificial sweeteners), it’s important to be picky! And since the bacterial cultures used are often very short-lived, be sure to purchase products from the refrigerated section only, not the middle aisles with the dry goods.

The bacteria living in the GI tract or "gut microbiome" are key for a healthy body and mind. Maintain a healthy gut microbiome with these 4 simple steps!

I also recommend taking a probiotic supplement each day. In fact, they’re one of the few across-the-board supplements I recommend — I truly think everyone should take them because they’re just that important. As with probiotic-rich food, it’s important to be picky. The live bacteria need to be delivered to your large intestine live, so they can grow and help balance your microbiome. This is key, so be sure to always check to make sure the packaging of your probiotic supplement says “live at expiration” not “live at manufacture.” This is also why storage is important — always keep probiotics in dry, cool, dark location. Some probiotics will also say “heat-stable” and “stomach acid resistant” which means those probiotics are getting where they need to go to do their job: your large intestine.

I’ve used a number of different types and brands of probiotics in the past and am always rotating to get the greatest diversity of strains. One of my recent favorites is Kyo-Dophilus. I used to go for the highest number of strains and greatest diversity but now know that quantity isn’t the only factor to consider. The strains found in Kyo-Dophilus are heat-stable and stomach acid resistant — so they’re actually able to make it to the large intestine where they belong. Kyo-Dophilus is also formulated with three specific strains that have been clinically studied and haven proven benefits for digestive issues and immune system function. This isn’t surprising given that the company has been making probiotics for over 30 years and is very reliable, trusted brand.

The bacteria living in the GI tract or "gut microbiome" are key for a healthy body and mind. Maintain a healthy gut microbiome with these 4 simple steps!

Feed good gut bacteria with prebiotic fiber

Soluble fiber acts as a “prebiotic” or food for our healthy gut bacteria, and I say “LET THEM FEAST!” Or in other words, make sure you’re getting enough soluble fiber.

Good sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp fiber/protein
  • Properly soaked and sprouted grains
  • Organic fruits and vegetables (especially sweet potatoes and raw, whole carrots)

I recommend taking your probiotic supplement along with a snack or meal containing soluble fiber so all those healthy bacteria have the food they need to thrive once in the gut.

The bacteria living in the GI tract or "gut microbiome" are key for a healthy body and mind. Maintain a healthy gut microbiome with these 4 simple steps!

Keep “bad” gut bacteria in check with beneficial probiotic strains

Supplementing with probiotics alone helps to crowd out the bad bacteria and yeasts, but a few probiotic strains in particular have been found to be especially helpful in restoring balance.

For example, Kyolic’s Kyo-Dophilus probiotics were designed with 3 of these strains for this exact purpose — Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum – they call these The Friendly Trio. They’re an especially great choice if you show signs of potential dysbiosis.

The bacteria living in the GI tract or "gut microbiome" are so critically important to a healthy body and mind. And it doesn't take much to maintain a healthy gut microbiome — start with these 4 simple steps!

Reduce sugar to starve the “bad” bacteria

Sugar feeds the “bad bacteria” and unhealthy yeasts in the digestive tract.

I suggest eliminating all refined sugar from the diet — trust me, it’s not as drastic as it seems and you won’t miss it a bit once your blood sugar regulates! Plus, you’re still getting quite a lot of natural sugars in your diet even from real foods. Speaking of which… individuals with severe dysbiosis like candida overgrowth may need to even avoid high-sugar fruits and carbs for a time as they work to rebalance their microbiome.

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  1. My husband has been having some severe GI issues lately which we mostly attribute to withdrawaling from his benzo prescription but we’re trying to be really careful about his gut health. We’ve been looking into probiotics but they are so overwhelming. I really appreciate you sharing these tips, especially to look for live at expiration. I never would have thought about that.

  2. Is there an ideal time to take a probiotic? I’ve been taking mine before bed, but wondering if timing plays a factor. Also, how many servings of prebiotic foods should you be eating in a day?
    Thank you!

  3. Great question! So this there are 2 differing opinions on this: 1) You should take it on an empty stomach so your stomach acids won’t kill the beneficial bacteria before they get where they belong, the large intestine OR 2) You should take it with food so the beneficial bacteria have some fiber to feast on and multiply once they get where they belong. I personally go with #2 because if you’re choosing a high-quality probiotic that can withstand stomach acidity then that’s nothing to worry about.

    As far as prebiotic food, as long as you’re getting a good amount of fiber (30-35 grams/day) in your diet you’re good! (And of course fiber has SO many other benefits too beyond food for probiotics!)

  4. I’m so glad it was helpful, Ashley! The one other thing I do recommend: switching up your probiotic after a few months just to make sure you’re getting diversity.

  5. This is such an important topic that so many people don’t know anything about. Even people who are doing their best to eat healthy! Thanks for sharing!

  6. This post is very near and dear to my heart! Thank you for all the wonderful information. I’m a firm believer that all health begins in the gut!

  7. Wow, such a helpful and thorough post, thank you! I appreciate learning about a great probiotic brand that I haven’t used before and can trust!