Happy 2017! My top 5 New Year’s Resolutions to help me, myself, and my microbiome.
Your health is intertwined with health of the microbiomes in and on your body. As a mom of 2 young kids, wife, daughter with aging parents, blogger, and scientist, I have a bad tendency to take care of everyone else but me. “On an airplane in the event of an emergency we’re told to put on YOUR oxygen mask first, then the mask of the small child next to you”, a super-insightful, fellow science-mom friend reminded me. But if I’m not functioning, I can’t help everyone else well. Same goes for my microbial partners. If they aren’t fed and functioning well, they aren’t doing their jobs well and helping keep me healthy. Here’s my New Year’s Resolutions for me and my microbes.
1. Eat (even) More Plants!
Gut microbiome studies continue to show that there are few types of microbes in the guts of people with diseases ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to Parkinson’s disease. Higher diversity, more different types of bacteria, is correlated with better health and a more plant-based diet.
“What did you feed your gut microbes this meal?” I’ll ask the kids (and myself). That simple question has increased the veggie and fruit content on the kid’s plates.
It’s the main trick I use to get the kids eating more fruits and veggies too. See Jac’s video about healthy eating she and I made January 2016 during the first MD snowstorm of the year. It may seem silly, but it’s also easier for me to think about taking care of my microbes than my human self. I’m more likely to skip the cookies and sugar when I think of my microbial pals.
2. Eat Food YOU Make
Eating less processed food is part of the way that we eat better for our microbes too. Processed foods are so easy and abundant here in the U.S., but they are higher in salt, fats, and lower in plant fibers than foods we are more likely to make at home. The kicker here is time and energy. My husband and I both have long commutes (>45 min each way), so we are often exhausted and more tempted to pull out a frozen pizza or get take-out than cook on weekdays (and sometimes weekends). Yesterday we sat down and made a list of main and side dishes that are easy, quick, and healthy. We pulled the recipes out and made a shopping list from them. Many of the ingredients overlap, so it should be easier to not get in a rut. (HT to my sister for this idea).
To follow my microbiome-friendly meals – follow me on Instagram. Tag your microbiome-friendly meals with #feedthemicrobes to share with others! For other good microbiome-friendly meal makers – check out Anne and David, authors of the Hidden Half of Nature at www.dig2grow.com and science writer Kristina Campbell’s book The Well-Fed Microbiome. Our framily frequently uses recipes from Kristina’s book.
I’m also back to culturing my own yogurt. The girls and I tried this a while ago, more as a fun experiment using different bacteria including probiotics and store-bought yogurt as starter cultures. In the spring, I bought actual yogurt cultures from Cultures for Health. Details about that in another post, but 3.5 yo Emily and I started 4 new Heirloom yogurt cultures Dec 31. So far they are going strong and SOO tasty and easy! I’m also ordering the Kefir and Buttermilk cultures to start next week. For other fermented foods, the king of fermented foods is Sandor Katz. His books Wild Fermentation and the Art of Fermentation are classics for anyone interested in doing their own ferments. Several other books are on the Microbial Marketplace Store at Amazon.
Last year, sleep emerged as a new correlation between human health and behavior and a disrupted gut microbiome. December 2016 a new paper suggested that bacteria in the gut microbiome have their own “clock”. They move within the gut that they are in depending on the time of day. This movement changes which human gut cells the bacteria are interacting with and seems to also influence other organs, such as the liver. These bacterial-human interactions may influence everything from our sleep-wake cycles and when we eat to how medicines are used by the body. For more see this press release or the original paper.
These really are my top 3 resolutions for this year. For last year’s microbiome-friendly New Year’s Resolutions – check out the 2016 post. Re-reading the post, only MORE supporting data has been added to those resolutions since last January! Happy 2017 to you and your microbes.