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1. Stop killing them all the time!
We are constantly showering / washing all our external microbes off & using all kinds of microbe-killers & things that mess with our internal & external ecosystems. Antibacterial hand wash, antibiotics, mouthwash, deodorant, facial cleansers, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, make-up etc – all great & useful products (I’m not saying never shower or use deodorant) but we need to be aware that these things can seriously mess with our natural microbes. Use ‘hygiene’ products minimally – not just out of habit (think of being ‘clean’ as being covered in a healthy microbial population more so than being completely sanitised). You are much less likely to get an infection when you have loads of harmless microbes all over you to protect you from baddies (a stripped, clean slate will just give any baddies that come along free reign to multiply). Opt for gentle, chemical free, plant-based alternatives to harsh chemical products that claim to destroy 99.5% of bacteria for a certain period (many toothpastes, deodorants & hand washes claim such things).
2. Expose yourself, inside & outside the house.
Open the windows every day, let the air into your home, or better still – get out into nature! Get dirty, sandy, muddy, salty, leafy, furry – get some new natural bugs into your ecosystem. Nature is full of great microbes that we’ve evolved with, we know how to handle them & they can help us in many cases. Google ‘hookworm & coeliac disease’ – trials are showing very positive results – everyone wants to keep their parasites as they feel healthier & any accidental gluten ingestion is less problematic. Also read about peanut allergy & probiotics, an area of study promising to help kids who live in fear of accidentally coming into contact with nuts. Probiotics & hay fever, fermented foods & anxiety…even babies growing up with pets (or grubby older siblings) are healthier than those raised in more ‘clean’ homes. The key is that when you have a baby, you want something that carries dirt & microbes into your house daily to keep your bubs immune system occupied. Put down the sanitiser, let the dog in, & kick the toddlers off the i-pad to go & play mud-pies!!)
3. Eat them. Organic fruit & veggies fresh from garden to mouth = more ‘buggy’ (in a good way)!
These will deliver not just better nutrition & less toxicity, but also a heap of healthy microbes as a bonus…not so when you’re eating produce grown with artificial fertilisers & sprayed with chemicals, then transported & left sitting in cold storage (sometimes for months) before it gets to your plate. If you’ve never been a green thumb, try growing just a tiny garden with salad greens & herbs – even start with a pot / planter box. If you just don’t wanna grow anything yourself, get to your local farmer’s markets or organic produce store regularly.
4. The big guns. Regularly consume foods that contain live bacteria.
Quality yoghurts, aged cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha,…this stuff is alive with bugs that produce amazing & helpful substances for our gut & body, while helping us to breakdown the things that they’re fermenting (so we can digest more easily & extract more nutrition). If you’re sensitive to fermented foods / probiotics then start very slowly, you may notice some ‘turbulence’ (sometimes an increase in gas) when you introduce more of these into your system, like when you suddenly increase fibre.
5. Change the environment = change the bacterial balance.
You can very quickly alter your gut bacterial population by changing what you eat each day. We know that many helpful gut bugs thrive on fibre – veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole ancient grains…these all provide fodder for your good guys. Feed the goodies & they’ll begin to multiply & crowd out the baddies. Your baddies (the gut bugs that make you less healthy in general) love to eat sugars & refined carbohydrates – that’s one reason you may crave these foods – the more of these carb-munchers you have, the more sugar you’ll want. It’s your gut bugs demanding a regular intake of what they need to survive. Making initial changes to your diet can be really hard, but once you’re well into the change it will feel hard to go back – your gut bugs want you to keep feeding them their favourites. Your dominant belly bugs are a product of what you’ve been consistently eating, so if you’re a sugar feind, they’ll strongly resist a change to a high veggie / low sugar diet, but in the end (once you’ve balanced them out) they will actually help you stay healthy).
Love to get your feedback in the comments below – how hard has it been for you to change your gut bacterial balance, & what helped most?