Nurturing Your Gut Microbial Health During the Lockdown

By Juliette Frank and Emeran A. Mayer, MD

During this unprecedented and stressful time, it is now more important than ever to keep yourself healthy and strengthen your immune system. With all the uncertainty regarding COVID-19, an action step we can all take towards building a more resilient immune system is to practice eating a nutritious diet in order to boost gut microbial health. The gut microbiome is made up of a vast ecosystem composed of trillions of microorganisms which work together to protect our gut and immune system, thereby increasing our resilience and resistance to disease.

An unhealthy diet, chronic stress and frequent antibiotic intake weakens this ecosystem, compromising its ability to fight off potential threats such as pathogens and viruses. It is now well established, that foods that will promote a healthy gut microbiome and a tight intestinal barrier to prevent contact with the gut based immune system include a largely plant-based diet consisting of nutrients such as fiber, polyphenols, other inflammatory molecules and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients can be found in a diverse range of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, and fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. The more varied the source of plants and fruits is, the better for microbial diversity. Refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, ultra processed foods, and artificially flavored beverages should be avoided.

While we all take precautions and anxiously await for this virus to unfold, we can all take steps towards strengthening our immune systems by choosing to eat nourishing foods that will boost our gut microbiome health.

Dishes that satisfy the needed nutritional elements to optimize gut microbial health and resistance to disease:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal or muesli with nut milk, chia seeds, nuts or nut butters, blue and black berries (or any fruit), and (optional) maple syrup or honey
  • You can also use yogurt and add granola or any of these toppings!

Lunch:

  • Sourdough or multigrain toast with avocado, egg or smoked salmon, sauerkraut or pickled onions

Dinner:

  • Salad with greens (any lettuce works!), avocado, tomatoes, red onion/chives/green onion, nuts/seeds, cucumber, sauerkraut, olives, dressed with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Salmon with roasted vegetables (any veggies you have!), and any grain (farro, quinoa, brown/wild rice, etc.)

Snack:

  • An assortment of fruit and nuts or veggies and hummus

Beverages:

  • Black coffee, water, green tea, kombucha, a glass of red wine

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