Feeding Your Gut Microbiome
We all want to eat as healthy as we can, but how do you know if you’re eating well for your gut health? Whenever you eat, you're providing food to trillions of bacteria, yeast, and fungi that live in your gut. For example, you probably know oranges are good for your daily dose of vitamin C. Did you know that oranges have a fabulous prebiotic fiber that helps support your beneficial Faecalibacterium species that help protect you from ulcerative colitis?
To be fair, it’s difficult to know what food is really healthy for you when there are so many trendy diets and changing attitudes on food types. One thing we can all agree on, though, is that the less processed the food, the better, and that more veggies are generally the way to go. That remains true for the gut microbiome as well.
How Fast Your Diet Affects Your Gut
In 2011, a study was done in France on the impact of diet on microbiome diversity. 49 overweight and obese individuals were given a high-protein, high-fiber, low-calorie diet for 6-weeks and their microbiomes were analyzed.
The individuals who had higher microbiome diversity (healthier microbiomes) to begin with, were those who ate more vegetables and fruits and fish than the study participants who had less diverse microbiomes. They also had more low-grade inflammation than their counterparts who had healthier microbiomes.
The good news is that all of the participants had a significant increase in microbiome diversity after the 6-week low calorie, high-protein, high-fiber diet. This led the scientists leading the study, to conclude that you can shift your microbiome in a healthy direction within weeks, essentially helping to restore a healthy ecosystem within the gut. You can’t change your own genetics but you can change your gut microbiome by making some important changes in your diet today.
So if you’re wondering which types of foods fall into the category of healthy for your gut, here’s a handy list to take to the grocery store:
- Cruciferous Vegetables - perfect prebiotic food for Faecalibacterium
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Unsaturated Fats - favorite prebiotic food for beneficial Bacteroides species that promote efficient digestion
- Olive oil
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans
- Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts
- Fish like salmon, tuna, halibut
- Chia seeds
- Inulin - superfood for probiotic Bifidobacterium species that help support your immune system
- Bananas, this includes green bananas or plantains
- FOS or Oligofructose – primary food of Akkermansia muciniphila, a probiotic that helps protect against leaky gut.
- Blue agave nectar
- Chicory root
- Seaweed – a tasty treat for Lactobacillus species, probiotic species that keep bad bacterial populations in check and support your immune system as well as help digest dairy products.
- Seaweed found in sushi
- Dried seaweed snacks
- Seaweed in miso soups
You can start by incorporating just one or two of these new superfoods into your diet and that will definitely help the resident beneficial bacteria work their hardest for you. If you already have these in your diet, that’s fabulous. Even small changes in your diet can shift your microbiome in a positive direction in as little time as a month and a half so get munching!
Cotillard, A. et al. Dietary intervention impact on gut microbial gene richness
Nature 500, 585–588 (October 24, 2013)
Read the Research Paper