Feeling sluggish, heavy, and less than your best? Your belly might be to blame. In recent years, scientists have increasingly linked gut health with immunity . From the standpoint of Ayurveda, this is nothing new; strong digestion and elimination have always been the foundations of good health. Fortunately, keeping your gut healthy is easier than you might think. All it takes is a bit of attention to nutrition and lifestyle.
What is your microbiome?
By now, you’ve probably read all about it. Within your intestines, there is a bustling population of hundreds of different bacteria. Some are more beneficial than others, and their sum total greatly impacts your overall health. This vibrant community is called your “microbiome.”
Here are some fascinating facts about the microbiome:
- Your gut microbiome contains as many as 5,000 different species of bacteria. That’s a lot of microbes! 
- Your microbiome weighs approximately 2 kilograms—about as much as a bag of a dozen apples.
- Your gut is wired similarly to your brain, complete with neurons and neurotransmitters. That’s why researchers call it “the second brain.”
- Supporting your gut health can help your mental health, emotional health, and immunity.
- Switching up your diet can change your gut health in as little as three days.
How is the gut microbiome important to overall health?
We’re all familiar with the idea that getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition has a positive impact on your immunity, but did you know that your gut microbes might have something to do with that as well? Their microbiomes may have something to do with it. New research published in Nature and funded by the NIH suggests that a person’s immunity is inextricably linked to their diet and gut health.
Looking at this phenomenon from an Ayurvedic perspective, we would say that immunity is also correlated with ojas, a subtle substance that’s produced in the body as the byproduct of healthy digestion. An abundance of ojas (life essence) is associated with radiant skin, a clear mind, balanced emotions, strong immunity, and overall good health. The more ojas a person is said to have, according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts, the less likely they are to be susceptible to seasonal sniffles. This is one of the many reasons why Ayurveda and gut microbiome health are so intimately related. Learn more about gut health and immunity.
The microbiome and gut health
As obvious as it may sound, your microbiome health and gut health are inextricably linked, too. When your digestive and eliminatory systems aren’t functioning efficiently, they can become laden with what’s known in Ayurveda as ama, or digestive toxins. Ama is a sticky substance that bogs down your intestines, leading to unpleasant issues such as occasional gas and constipation. Over time, if left unchecked, an accumulation of ama can clog your shrotas—the innumerable communication channels throughout the body—leading to all manner of health issues.
The Ayurvedic theory of ama bears a striking resemblance to something that’s known in the West as “leaky gut.” Normally, your gut carefully controls what is absorbed into your bloodstream. But, when it’s not working optimally, it becomes more permeable, allowing partially digested food and other digestive toxins to penetrate the tissues within. This, in turn, can lead to disruptions in your microbiome bacteria, which in turn can cause problems in the digestive tract and other parts of the body. In modern medicine as in Ayurveda, the goal is to maintain good gut health and a balanced microbiome.
A “leaky,” or unhealthy, gut lining can lead to disruptions in the microbiome bacteria, which in turn can cause problems in the digestive tract and other parts of the body. In modern medicine as in Ayurveda, the goal is gut health and a balanced microbiome.
How do food and diet affect your gut microbiome?
According to the Harvard School of Health, what you eat has a big impact on the state of your gut health and microbiome.
For instance, probiotic foods (like yogurt and kefir), are widely understood to be beneficial for gut health. Probiotics contain specific strains of bacteria (like lactobacillus) that add to the population of healthy microbes in your gut.
Foods with prebiotics are also beneficial. Prebiotics are natural plant fibers found in a variety of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. They’re especially abundant in starchy vegetables such as leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, and dandelion greens.
Foods that are detrimental to the microbiome include those that are high in processed sugar, trans fats, refined flours, and chemical additives. Think of the all-American meal: a burger, French fries, and a sugary soda or milkshake. It’s a great example of what not to feed your microbiome! Everything in moderation, of course, but the bottom line is that a plant-based diet has shown to be far better for your gut health. Your food, mood, and digestion are all related as well.
Gut health and the Ayurvedic diet
Because the traditional Ayurvedic diet is largely plant-based and vegetarian, it is very beneficial to gut health. Ayurvedic fare calls for meals made from fiber-rich whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains (like rice and quinoa), legumes (like lentils and chickpeas), nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices, along with a bit of dairy (if tolerated).
Ayurveda also recommends drinking a glass of lassi—a delicious probiotic beverage made from yogurt—at lunch each day to support gut health.
Here are some additional Ayurvedic principles that support healthy digestion and gut health:
- Start your day with a glass of room-temperature water mixed with a teaspoon of honey and some fresh lemon juice. This simple tonic helps stimulate your daily elimination, which, in turn, supports overall digestion. Learn more about gut health and elimination.
- Eat your largest and heaviest meal of the day at noon, when your digestive power, or agni, is at its strongest. This will help avoid the buildup of ama, which you recall are digestive toxins.
- Eat in a quiet, settled environment with your devices and screens powered down. Avoid excess stimulation during meals, including emotional conversations and business talks.
- Avoid ice-cold water and beverages, as they diminish the digestive fire. Sip warm or room-temperature water with meals.
- Eat until you feel three-quarters full, leaving enough room in your stomach for the meal to digest.
- Avoid “grazing” throughout the day to prevent the production of ama.
- Add meditation to your daily routine. Meditation and Ayurveda go hand in hand in creating mind-body balance.
- Give your digestion a reset with our Love Your Gut set
Ayurvedic herbs to support a healthy gut microbiome
Diet and lifestyle are generally the first steps in creating balance the Ayurveda way. But when you need a little extra support, traditional botanicals can help. Here are a few of our favorite herbs and teas for promoting strong digestion and eliminative health.
- Organic Triphala Rose: The word tri-phala means “three fruits” (haritaki, amalaki, and bibhitaki) in Sanskrit. This traditional herbal remedy helps to encourage regular elimination, support better assimilation of nutrients, helps balance the microbiome, and strengthens digestive health and immunity.
- Organic Digest & Detox Tea: This simple spice tea is a surprisingly powerful detoxifier. Made from cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, this age-old recipe helps to flush toxins through the body and awaken a sluggish gut. It also improves nutrient absorption and supports healthy digestion.
- Aller-Gi: Struggling with acquired food sensitivities? This synergistic formula contains pomegranate, turmeric, amla, coriander, ginger, and other botanicals to stimulate the digestive enzymes and strengthen the digestive tract.
For more helpful tips, recipes, and information supporting your gut health and microbiome naturally, check out our Digestion Wellness Hub.