How do I supporting my microbiome with diet is common question I get in my practice. Today I am going to take you through three different points: 1) how the gut flora works, 2) why diversity is important, and 3) my favorite foods to support your microbiome at home.
There is about 6 pounds of bacteria in your colon – and this is what makes up what’s called your “microbiome.” We have more bacteria inside us and outside us on our skin, than we do actual cells in our human body. We live in a symbiotic relationship – we could not live without our microbiome, and they need us to provide a safe home. We start to build our microbiome from the moment we are born, and this process continues throughout our lives with our exposure to other humans through touch, the great outdoors, and different bacteria on foods.
All those experiences are important, because we want to have a diverse microbiome. All bacteria have a role in the gut – whether it is to make mucus, produce butyrate, make vitamins, or to support other bacteria. We want MANY types of bacteria to THRIVE. There are many different bacterial families in the gut, and different bacterial species make up that family. The types of flora you have in your gut are based upon your experiences as a human – if you were born vaginally or C-section, or who you’ve kissed or had sex with, or where you’ve travelled or what kind of dirt you ate as a child. Our microbiome can also be ALTERED by different types of drugs, especially anti-biotics, and for ladies – the hormonal birth control pill. We can rebuild the microbiome if we need to take antibiotics – so there is good neww. But studies do show, that some humans can have large changes in their flora over time, where whole families of bacteria can be absent in the human gut upon testing!
Let’s talk about testing for a second – you can find out what kind of gut bacteria you have, and the kind of intestinal health you have, based on your scores on a stool test. I use these often with patients – the results tell me if the sample is diverse, what kinds of pathogens are living in the gut, what kinds of good bacteria are living there, and if they have a healthy gut lining or not, or whether there is inflammation in the gut. One thing I love about stool testing is that it can tell us if you have healthy levels of butyrate in the gut – butyrate is one of 4 types of Short Chain Fatty Acids – or SCFAs for short. SCFAs are produced by healthy gut bacteria (AKA normal flora) when the bacteria eat and ferment different kinds of fiber. The butyrate produced helps protect the gut healing and prevent against food allergies, leaky gut and other gut problems. It also helps keep the pH of the intestines LOW, which means pathogens like bad bacteria and yeast cannot grow!
People who have low butyrate are often quite sick, they react to a lot of foods, they have chronic health issues, and they have multiple gut symptoms. But GOOD NEWS – having a diverse diet – meaning you eat a bunch of different foods, especially a lot of different plan foods – means you will support your gut bacteria so they can thrive! You can use supplements like taking butyrate orally, and taking probiotics orally, but the best bet is to support with diet.
My favorite foods for a healthy microbiome are:
- In short, ALL VEGGIES
- Fermented foods – like fermented sauerkraut, fermented carrots, real pickles, pickled beets
- Inulin containing foods like banana, burdock, chicory, dandelion, artichoke, jicama, garlic, onions
- Brussel sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnips
- Green veggies (especially anything green and leafy)
- Sweet potatoes, beets, winter squashes, carrots
- Celery, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers
- Food fibers like chia, flax, psyllium, acacia
- If you can tolerate them: beans and whole grains, like black beans and oats
In fact one reason why people initially feel so well on a paleo or a vegan diet, compared to the standard america diet, or the keto diet, is because of the sudden influx of plant foods feeding their microbiome!
For more in-depth explanation – please see my video on YouTube – click here. Be sure to share this article with your friends and family who need to hear it!