We all have a unique combination of micro-organisms (ie bacteria, fungi, viruses etc) that live in our gastrointestinal tract. There are approximately 100 trillion of them in our gut! There are good and bad bugs in there, and the correct balance is really important. Links have been made between particular bacteria in our microbiome and risk of chronic diseases, autoimmune conditions, and IBS.
Fibre intake, whole foods, pre- and probiotics all have an effect on our gut microbiome. Let’s take a deeper dive into this now.
Hi, I’m Cathy, Holistic Dietitian and Gut Health Coach, owner of Nutrition Wellness Life, and Mum to 3 little munchkins. I love working with women who are struggling with digestive issues to help improve energy levels, reduce stress, and have a happier gut!
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Research is expanding when it comes to the gut microbiome, which dietary and lifestyle factors affect our microbiome, and its effect on overall health and wellness. There are many benefits to our health when we have a healthy microbiome. Studies indicate that the gut microbiota helps develop the immune system, helps our body to get the energy it needs from our food, and offers protection from invading pathogens. 1
There is a positive association between increased fibre intake (particularly prebiotic fibres), and a whole foods diet, with diets containing lots of different types of plants linked to greater gut bacteria diversity. 2
What this means on a daily basis – lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and herbs. Trying to incorporate vegetables into our meal plan throughout the day will help to get lots of variety. So, think – maybe some mornings when you have a little bit of time, have a frittata with lots of vegetables through it, or a fried egg with some mushrooms, tomato and baby spinach thrown in the pan; celery sticks with some almond butter for morning tea; salad at lunch with your sandwich or wrap (and lean protein option); brown rice crackers and hummus for afternoon tea; dinner – lean protein option with loads of vegetables (stir fried or steamed) +/- some sweet potato or medium grain brown rice. By including these plant-based foods throughout the course of the day as our meals and snacks, we are not leaving it all until dinner time to get the 5-7 serves of vegetables that we need!
Our microbiome is affected by our diet – the types of foods we eat, and the quality of the foods we eat. Trying to stick with a mostly whole foods diet is the best way to feed those good microbes in our gut and get the most out of the health protective effects they seem to offer their host. It truly is a symbiotic relationship – the microbes have a nice warm cozy place to call home, and we benefit from protection they offer us. The science is evolving in this area (which is exciting, watch this space..), and there are strong indications that a digestive system with diversity in its microbiome is beneficial. A high fibre, whole foods diet – if you implement these strategies, you can’t go wrong! If you are following a low FODMAP diet you may find that there are certain plant-based foods that you don’t tolerate. Remember, the low FODMAP diet should be used with the guidance of a health professional that is experienced in this area, and it should not be a diet for the rest of your life. There is a protocol that should be followed in terms of reducing the high FODMAP foods for a period of time, but then doing a challenge. There are actually some foods that are high FODMAP that are also high in prebiotics. Remember, prebiotics are really beneficial in getting diversity in your gut microbiome. Often you are on a low FODMAP diet if you are experiencing excessive wind etc, so perhaps you could delve a little deeper into the actual reason for that over-fermenting?… Food for thought.
Anyway, I will leave it at that for now. I hope that has given you a little bit of an insight into how amazing our microbiome is. I will talk about this some more in further blog posts. Really, this has just been the tip of the iceberg.
Until next time, stay well, stay whole (foods), and feed that amazing microbiome.
Yours in good health and wellness,
- Herman DR et al. Dietary Habits of 2- to 9-year-old American children are associated with Gut Microbiome Composition. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020;120(4): 517-534.
- Holscher H. Diet Affects the Gastrointestinal Microbiota and Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020;120 (4):495-499.