The weather is getting colder and that brings on more than just magical snowfalls and turtleneck sweaters. The flu season can really put a damper on our lives and your gut plays a huge role here. Your gut is critically tied to your overall wellness. The gut is essential for a strong immune system, helps regulate hormones, and eliminates toxins from the body.
“The lining of your intestinal wall is an important barrier that prevents things that aren’t supposed to get into your bloodstream from getting through,” explains our own Keri Glassman, RD. “There are billions of bacteria, viruses and fungi in your gut. You’re hosting colonies and armies of microscopic bugs which we collectively call microbes that are essential to your immune system, heart, lungs, skin, and gut. When things get “leaky,” that can cause inflammation.”
So, to ensure that our microbiome stays healthy this holiday season, we chatted with Dr. Azza Gadir, PhD, an immunologist, microbiome expert, and Director of R&D at Seed Health. Her published research was focused on the immunological mechanisms that underlie the role of the gut microbiome in conferring protection to diseases early in life. So, when you want to know about gut health, you call her (and we did!).
Here’s Dr. Gadir’s top five ways to keep our gut healthy this winter:
Make the Most Room for Vegetables
Gut bacteria primarily subsist on plant-based fiber found in beans, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. That’s right—fiber isn’t just for pooping. For gut microbial diversity, try eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower which contain compounds that your gut bacteria can metabolize into beneficial nutrients.
While we know that diet plays a big role in shaping the gut microbiome, new research indicates that cooking methods not only alters the digestibility of plant foods (starch), but can also impact the gut microbiome. Added bonus, some scientists have suggested that cooking and baking could help you feel better (emotionally).
Keep To Your Routines or Create New Ones
Your body has a 24-hour clock, also known as circadian rhythms. But did you know that your microbiome exhibits diurnal variations? The disruption of circadian rhythms through irregular sleeping patterns, light exposure at night, and irregular feeding times have been suggested to impact the gut microbiome. This mysterious relationship between the rhythmicity of our microbes and our circadian clocks is still being explored, but it’s suggested that consistency in sleep-wake cycles could promote the homeostasis of this synchronous relationship.
Mask Up, Layer Up and Go Outside
We now know the natural environment plays a pivotal role in shaping our health from a young age—the more exposure we get, the richer and more resilient our own microbiome tends to be. Turns out, the environment has a microbiome too, and it is much less diverse than the great outdoors. So, mask up, and try to get outside this holiday season.
Take a Daily Probiotic
Beyond diet and lifestyle adjustments, probiotics (and prebiotics) are complementary tools you can use to help the microbes that exist to help you. Probiotic + prebiotic formulas (like Seed’s Daily Synbiotic) have been clinically and scientifically-studied to provide benefits for gastrointestinal function, skin health, heart health, gut immune function, gut barrier integrity, and micronutrient synthesis. It’s an easy daily ritual that has long-lasting benefits.
“When choosing a probiotic it is recommended to discuss with an RD or MD as your specific needs will require a specific strain of probiotic,” adds Glassman.