Why playing in the dirt has never been more important
Infection control measures like hand washing, physical separation and travel restrictions may be essential right now. But how do these measures influence the health and diversity of our gut microbiome?
Our gut is home to trillions of microorganisms which collectively form an ecosystem we call the gut microbiota. The health and diversity of our gut bacteria are shaped by a number of factors, including how you were born (c-section vs. natural birth), diet, smoking, exercise, genetics, pets, medication use, and social interactions. Establishing and maintaining a diverse gut microbiota is critical to our immune, metabolic, digestive, and mental health throughout our life.
Unfortunately, many of the measures used to protect us from harmful infections and viruses are also affecting the diversity of our microbes. This thinking comes from the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, an idea which suggests that a robust immune system is shaped by exposure to a variety of microbes (good and bad). This is one of the reasons why playing in the dirt as a kid may have long-term benefits for your gut health and immunity!
On the other hand, the overuse of hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, and social distancing restricts our exposure to different microbes, and may have long-term implications for the diversity of our gut microbiota. So how do we strike a balance between staying safe from infection, yet harnessing the power of microbial diversity? Here are our top 4 tips:
Own a pet (or take a friend’s dog for a walk)
Research shows that exposure to our furry friends boosts microbial diversity.
Take a walk in the forest or local park
We might be past the age of playing in the sandpit, but taking a walk in nature and breathing the fresh air will have similar benefits to our gut health.
Exercise can increase the number and diversity of beneficial microbes. While research is still underway, it appears that aerobic (cardio) and endurance-based exercise may reap the greatest benefits. A jog in the forest might be the ultimate combination!
Feeding your microbes
Aim for a diversity of plant-based foods, with a specific focus on prebiotic fibres (like onion, garlic, artichokes, and chicory root) and probiotics (like kefir, artisanal cheese, and sauerkraut). Each week, aim to pick out a different or strange-looking vegetable!
Boosting your bugs
Do you struggle to get enough fibre in your diet? Consider taking a diverse fibre supplement to support immune, metabolic, mental, and digestive health. Myota have developed a number of custom fibre mixes that provide 10g of soluble, viscous and fermentable (prebiotics) fibres in just one tablespoon. Myota fibre mixes are purified versions of the fibres that comes from natural plant sources. Find out more here.