The Ultimate Gifts For Your Gut Microbes This Christmas

The Ultimate Gifts For Your Gut Microbes This Christmas

Treat your gut bacteria this Christmas. Unlike friends and family, they won’t break the bank, and they’ll return the favour by enhancing your health.

There’s no need to subject yourself to festive shopping mayhem because most things good gut microbes want are probably on your food shopping list. The other gifts are totally free – simple changes you can make to increase their abundance and keep them healthy.

The holiday season is all about feasting, and for many of us, overindulging. It’s the perfect time to cram in all the treats that maybe we refrain from eating the rest of the year. But it’s important that you consider your gut microbes during Christmas, and remember they need a little love too!

Your gut is home to trillions of bacterial cells which all live in harmony together, striving to keep you well by producing useful metabolites and deterring opportunistic pathogens from taking up residence in your body.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to strengthen the relationship you have with your gut bacteria. And we think you should add them to your Christmas list. After all, if you forget to gift your gut, your bacterial cells might just make you pay for it!

Probiotics: invite good bugs to the party

Probiotics are live bacteria that benefit our health when we ingest them. They are in many common foods, and they’re easy to come by.

The idea that probiotics could benefit our health is not news, but what are they? Probiotics are foods or supplements which include live bacteria known to have health-promoting effects in the body. They include some types of yoghurt, cheese, and fermented foods.

You’re probably already aware of some probiotic strains of bacteria as they are often stated on many television adverts for certain health-benefiting foods. For example, the bacterial species which feature most often are Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus.

However, many fermented foods are pasteurised for sale in supermarkets, a process that kills off live bacteria. To help you choose, check the label for words like live, live cultures, raw, and fermented.

The ingredient list may also list the strains of probiotic bacteria in the food. This article by The Kitchn with 23 fermented foods and recipes is a great place to start.

Naturally probiotic foods
probiotic yoghurt kombucha sauerkraut
milk kefir water kefir kimchi
some cheeses sourdough bread tempeh
kvass wine miso
vinegar lacto-fermented pickles natto

Fermented foods can help to keep the balance in your gut microbiome because they add beneficial bacteria to the gut. This can help bolster your gut useful if the environment has become imbalanced, a condition called dysbiosis.

Now, at Christmas, it’s easy to destabilise the gut with excess alcohol, rich foods, and no exercise. And before you ask, no, lifting the remote and changing channels for festive TV doesn’t count as exercise.

Dysbiosis occurs when your gut bacteria are off-balance. It means that microbes which could have negative effects on your health set up camp in your gut or have an increased abundance, resulting in inflammation as well as digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.

Research now shows that dysbiosis could even contribute to chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s. And you might not want to think about it at this time of year, but adding probiotics to your Christmas feast is a first step towards protecting your gut.

☝️TIP☝️Check out our kombucha recipe for dummies by our blog editor, trained chef and fermented food expert.

Prebiotics: what to feed your gut bugs

Your Christmas dinner is full of prebiotic foods that nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut, increasing the abundance of health-promoting microbes and their fermentation products.

The Christmas feast is the highlight of most of our festive celebrations. Family and friends gather round to devour the star of the show (the turkey) with a meager spoonful of veggies. Yet, it’s the plant foods that your gut microbes are looking forward too.

That’s because the dietary fibre you eat travels mostly undigested to your colon, and that’s where your gut bacteria come into their own. In fact, think of them like you: they’re sitting at their little dining tables, anticipating the arrival of carbs for a good festive munch.

Prebiotic Christmas foods
potatoes carrots cranberries
Brussels sprouts onions Jerusalem artichokes

Plant-based foods contain many types of dietary fibres which keep your gut microbes well-nourished. They also contain antioxidants, called polyphenols, that combat damage to your body cells. Foods are considered prebiotic when they increase the abundance or activity of your beneficial bacteria, which has positive effects for your health.

Prebiotics are fermented by your gut microbes, yielding organic compounds including vitamins and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The main SCFAs produced in your gut are acetate, butyrate, and propionate.

These have many functions in the body, like providing an energy source for the cells that line your colon, stimulating the release of hormones to suppress hunger, preventing inflammation, and promoting brain health.

☝️TIP☝️We’ve even got a really simple probiotic yoghurt recipe by the founder of the Sourdough School, cookbook author and chef, Vanessa Kimbell.

Add some pickles to your cheeseboard

A staple for any Christmas tea, but who knew eating the right cheeses and pickles could have great benefits for your gut.

So, we’ve broadly looked at the benefits of eating probiotic foods, but cheese and pickles are a firm festive favourite. If you eat the correct types, they will deliver live bacteria to your gut which encourages the growth of beneficial microbes in your gut.

Proper cheese is a fermented food and some traditional, aged cheeses still have live cultures inside them. To help you choose, head to the cheese counter or farmer’s market and ask about their selection of “raw” cheeses for a festive gut-friendly cheese board with sourdough and lacto-fermented pickles.

too many to count
Get fancy with real cheese and toast microbial fermentation at its finest

But, make sure you eat the right pickles for your gut microbes, don’t get the ones preserved in vinegar. Instead, try ones like pickled cucumbers in brine (a salt-water solution). This salty environment allows probiotic lactic acid bacteria to thrive, giving them that characteristic sour taste. Again, your farmer’s market is a good place to find them.

Likewise, it can be quite simple to make your own show stopping pickles for the Christmas feast. Sauerkraut, a favourite in many European countries which is also fermented by lactic acid bacteria, is another example of a probiotic food your gut microbes will love.

☝️TIP☝️You can find a recipe for red cabbage and apple kraut here in our guide to red foods delicious health.

A glass of red wine can help

Believe it or not, the odd glass of red wine in moderation could be good for your gut health because it contains natural compounds called polyphenols.

Polyphenols are found in many plant-based foods and drinks. Because they have antioxidant properties, they are believed to protect us from many common diseases. Red wine contains one of the most common types of polyphenol, flavonoids.

But polyphenols are great for your gut health, too. As much as 95% of them travel to your colon where they are broken down by gut bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus into beneficial substances.

Research shows that these dietary polyphenols increase the populations of health-promoting bacteria in your gut, like Bifidobacteria. This probiotic microbe performs many essential functions to keep your microbiome balanced and your colon healthy.

The polyphenols in red wine and, indeed, alcohol-free alternatives, increase the numbers of good bacteria in your gut. Therefore, keeping them well-nourished means they’ll provide your body with more fermentation metabolites when they break down carbs.

Grape polyphenols increase the abundance of other types of bacteria like Akkermansia muciniphila too, a species of bacteria integral to the function of the intestinal barrier. When the gut barrier is working properly, it protects you from inflammation and even helps maintain stable glucose levels .

It also protects you from invaders which have the potential to make you ill from settling in your gut. So, having a small glass or two this Christmas could help to increase the abundance of these bacterial species and keep you protected from illness. Let’s raise a glass to our gut microbes!

Exercise: your gut bacteria love it too

You might just feel like chilling this festive period, but getting your sweat on and pumping the blood around your body is good for your gut microbiome too.

This is one gift for your gut which can be entirely free this Christmas and, let’s face it, most of us add physical activity to our New Year’s resolutions list. That’s great because getting active increases the diversity of your microbiome and raises the numbers of beneficial species.

Even low-intensity exercise can have protective effects for your gut because it can increase the transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract. That means your body gets rid of the waste faster so it doesn’t linger in your colon. It can even help with the dreaded Christmas bloat.

Test-kit-open
Get 10% off the Atlas Microbiome Test when you sign up for blog updates

Cardio-based exercise is really great for your gut microbiome. The festive season is also the perfect excuse for getting your dancing moves on, and it counts as exercise too – unless you’re plastered, that doesn’t help anything. Plus, if you’re having fun, you don’t feel like you’re exercising either!

Research has shown that people who exercise regularly have more diversity of gut bacteria, an essential parameter for microbiome health, and a greater abundance of health-promoting bacteria like those that produce butyrate, as well as Akkermansia muciniphila and Bifidobacteria.

The bottom line is that cardio is good for your microbes because it can increase the diversity of your microbiome. And that’s just good news all-round. So this Christmas, remember to stay active to keep inflammation low, your risk of illness reduced, and to improve the function of your gut barrier.

☝️TIP☝️Discover how exercise promotes microbiome health to help you make New Year’s resolutions.

Turn the stress down a notch or two

The festive season brings stress, but alleviating it is a gift your gut will thank you for. If you’re feeling stressed, your good bacteria can be affected too.

Psychological stress can occur at any time, but for many of us, Christmas can bring about many worries, including financial issues and whether people will like their gifts. But this can affect the abundance of beneficial bacteria and the diversity of your gut microbiome.

There is lots of research that concludes stress causes a reduced abundance of health-promoting microbes like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, whereas pathogenic ones like Escherichia coli rise.

And you don’t want that over the festive season. Instead, you want to be out enjoying yourself and making special memories. If your gut microbiota is less diverse it can influence your mood, memory, and behaviour.

On the plus side, it’s been shown that the gut microbiome and probiotics can beneficially influence the brain, relieve anxiety, increase stress resilience, and even help with mental health issues like depression. That’s because the gut and the brain are connected by the gut-brain axis.

That’s right, your gut is directly hooked up to your brain by the nervous system via the vagus nerve, which communicates information to and from these organs. Your microbiome influences the production of serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid that help regulate mood.

Even the short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, that’s produced by bacteria can help with cognitive health. So don’t stress because it’s Christmas! Just enjoy the ride, get some probiotics, munch on prebiotics, and your gut microbes will be much better off.

Make it personal with a microbiome test

The most important gift on your list, the Atlas Biomed microbiome test is an essential for gift for everyone this Christmas.

You won’t find another test like this on the market. Our microbiome test is an investment which gives you a real insight into what’s really going on inside your gut, and it’s much cheaper than most of the new gadgets that are bound to appear on many gift lists.

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s ultra-personal because your microbiome is unique to you. Our Atlas Biomed Microbiome Test helps you to discover the world of microbes, so you can learn more about them and how they can protect you from and even cause disease.

Microbiome test reports
microbiome diversity butyrate production
ability to produce vitamins probiotic and beneficial bacteria
dietary fiber breakdown disease protection status
personalised food recommendations

The test analyses the different types of bacteria in your gut as well as their abundance. It also provides you with personalised food recommendations which can help to keep your microbiome balanced. Once you get the results, you’ll receive a list of 10 foods to enhance your gut bacteria every week.

The great thing about the test is it’s suitable for everyone, even if you already eat a healthy, high fibre diet. It’s always good to check in with your gut and see what’s really going on. So, if you are exposed to high levels of stress, have existing digestive issues, or just want to see how you can improve your health, the test is perfect for you, too.

So, this Christmas why not treat your gut (and yourself) and your friends and family to an Atlas Biomed Microbiome Test. Maybe it will influence your New Year’s resolutions this year. Here’s to a healthy 2020!

Summary

For many of us Christmas is the perfect time to let our hair down and eat, drink, and be merry. But most of what we do can have negative consequences for our gut and overall health. It is, however, possible to keep your microbiome happy while still enjoying yourself.

Make sure an Atlas Biomed Microbiome Test is top of your ‘want’ list this year, so you can truly discover what’s really going on in your gut and how some small changes can mean you have a healthy 2020.

And by all means, overindulge, but cram in the prebiotic fibres to keep your gut bacteria well nourished and give them the Christmas feast they deserve. Trust us, you’ll be thankful when the big day is over!

☝️TIP☝️Discover your gut bacteria status with the Atlas Microbiome Test and get 10% off when you sign up for blog updates!

Leanne Edermaniger
Leanne Edermaniger Science writer who enjoys laughing which is scientifically proven to help you live longer.

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