Greetings good people! In our final blog of our immunity series, we will be exploring ways to protect our microbiome. At this point, it’s likely that most people have heard this term before but may not have a confident understanding of it. The gut’s microbiome is certainly imperative for supporting immunity, so we will be delving into this here. But the microbiome of the gut is not the only microbiome we should care about… Read on to learn more!
Part 3: Trust Your Gut Microbiome
What is the microbiome? It’s the unique community of bacteria, fungi and viruses that mostly reside within the gut. Don’t be alarmed – when the gut is operating properly, these creatures serve as protectors against harmful invaders like infection-causing organisms. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for digestion, because without it, nutrients in food cannot be broken down and subsequently converted into the vital molecules that the body needs for it to thrive. What we want to avoid is something called “microbial dysbiosis”, which is an imbalance in gut flora where the bad microbes essentially outcompete the helpful ones. We want a microbiome that is as varied as possible so that it can properly defend us against inflammatory agents.
So how do you do this? Try to incorporate both prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet. Prebiotics include apples, asparagus, artichokes, onions, garlic and radishes, and serve as food for your probiotics as well as the gut’s microbiome. They may also play a role in getting a better night’s sleep by helping to relieve stress, which is itself crucial for reducing inflammation (check out our second immunity blog for more sleep hacks). So to ensure that these prebiotics can do their job, it’s important that you’re getting adequate probiotics in you. Probiotics help to increase the diversity of friendly micro-organisms in the gut, and include kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and miso, which are great sources of ILA. Once converted to IPA by the gut, are amazing antioxidants that facilitate a strong immunity by destroying free radicals. Cool, huh?! Alternatively, consider prebiotics and probiotics in supplement or liquid form as it can be a handy way of getting your gut in order even quicker.
A disclaimer though: err on the side of caution regarding the amount of probiotics you’re consuming, as they can lead to side-effects such as bloating and an exacerbation of acne in some people. If you already have a sensitive immune system, consult with your doctor first.
Now, supporting the gut is one part of the puzzle, but what’s the largest organ of the body that’s also home to its own microbiome? When inflammation appears, where does it often appear? The skin! The connection between the skin and the gut is called the gut-skin axis, and because of this relationship, when your gut flora is thriving, you’re supporting your skin flora as well. Like the gut, the microbiome of the skin also contains bacteria, fungi and viruses, and dysbiosis has been linked to skin disorders such as acne, atopic dermatitis, fungal infections and eczema. However, restoring balance to this microbiome may prevent these conditions and even treat them.
Targeting both the inside and outside of the body will help to ensure a healthy skin microbiome. It turns out that prebiotics are not just good for the gut: you can buy skincare products that contain prebiotics to support your skin’s delicate flora as well. Try La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Sensitive Fluide, which not only contains prebiotics but also hydrating thermal water. Remember to stay hydrated in general, particularly if you’re sweating a lot. It’s also possible that if you’re eating a colourful, varied diet, your sweat may act as an additional prebiotic for your skin. When you then go to shower, use products that are gentle enough to not disturb your skin’s slightly acidic pH, such as Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, and consider using an antifungal shampoo such as Nizoral if you are prone to an itchy scalp. Likewise, occasional use of an over-the-counter cream called clotrimazole may also be helpful to combat the fungal species on the face.
Now, given the pandemic, it’s clearly important to keep everything clean and sanitized, but be mindful of the products you’re using and how they may be affecting your skin and ultimately your immune system. After washing and sanitizing your hands, be sure to moisturize them to restore your skin’s moisture barrier and prevent harmful microbes from penetrating it. Remember, your skin’s great at communicating the presence of inflammation and nudging you to take action to boost your immunity. So next time you’re under the weather: Keep Calm and Trust Your Microbiome!
A few other quick tips: Avoid antibiotics if you can as they negatively impact the balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut. And spend time outdoors while encouraging your kids to play in the dirt, as this facilitates exposure to a variety of immune-supporting entities.
That was our final blog in our immunity series on the microbiome! We hope you found it informative and that you’ll refer to it if you suspect that a compromised microbiome may be affecting your immune system. Taken together, all three immunity blogs encourage you to prioritize rest, eating well and staying curious about how you can move forward in your wellness journey. That’s it for now good people – keep those immune systems strong and we’ll see you next time!
Please note that the information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your physician if you have any concerns about your health and/or intend to change your lifestyle by adopting any of the practices suggested in this blog.