A lot more goes on in your gut than you might realize. Trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, call your gut home. When they live together in harmony in what is called the microbiome, they help keep you healthy.
“If the balance is good, we’ll have fewer infections and illnesses, and our immune systems will be optimal,” says Emily Ostrowski, a registered dietitian at Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Michigan, who works with patients at the Michigan State University Center for Bleeding and Clotting Disorders. “When it’s not in balance, it can affect everything, from your heart to your mental health.”
Start with Your Diet
A mostly plant-based diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds supports gut microorganisms that may lower the risk of chronic disease, researchers have discovered.
to Address Chronic Illness
Kevin Tomlin is learning that now. Until recently, the 45-year-old focused on a high-protein meaty diet to serve his passion of weightlifting. But that raised his bad cholesterol and his risk of fatty liver disease, so he began a more diverse diet of greens and fiber. Plant-based protein, from sources such as lentils and beans, is beneficial for his gut and helps him build muscle in the gym.
Tomlin, who has hemophilia A and lives in Lansing, says liver disease runs in his family. His new diet will help reduce his risk. “I’m ready for this new challenge,” he says.
“The influence of gut health on bleeding disorders is not well known, but we do know that one form of vitamin K, known for its role in blood clotting, is produced by gut bacteria,” Ostrowski says. She says anyone with a chronic disease, including hemophilia, will benefit from a gut-healthy diet.
“You want to eat a variety of foods and nutrients to keep your gut in balance and maintain the diversity of its microorganisms,” she says. “Eat fiber-rich foods and limited amounts of processed foods.”
The gut microbiome also can be maintained with probiotics. These are good bacteria that help balance the disease-causing ones. Probiotics can be found in yogurt—make sure the label says it contains live and active cultures—as well as fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha.
Probiotics also come in supplement form, but Ostrowski says more research is needed to determine their effectiveness and the best strains for the desired clinical outcomes.