What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome is the trillions of bacteria in your digestive system. It is now considered a vital organ. I am always very shocked when I do up to date research about the microbiome because it reminds me of how important it is for our health. The key is to have a “healthy, full and diverse gut microbiome”.
Did you know that your gut microbiome can impact your weight, your bowel symptoms and your mental health?
If our gut microbiome is not healthy, full and diverse our risk of depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and IBS gut symptoms can increase.
Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut is linked to mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. A review by Clapp et al 2017 demonstrates the importance of a healthy microbiome, particularly the gut microbiota, for people suffering from anxiety and depression. Low faecal bacterial diversity is also associated with increased adiposity, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose homeostasis and higher low-grade inflammation (Davis et al 2016). A 2018 review has highlighted the link between an imbalance in gut bacterial communities, or “dysbiosis”, and the pathophysiology of IBS. Eg gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.
There is a huge amount of evidence out there highlighting the link between the gut microbiome and various avenues of our health. If you are wanting to know more in regards to the gut microbiome and a particular health area feel free to contact me to discuss it further.
Let's get to the good stuff now. If a healthy, full and diverse gut microbiome is what we want to achieve then how do we do this? Well it's through diet of course!!
Let food be thy medicine!
Here is what the research says you can do to create a healthy gut microbiome:
Start with including a wide variety and diversity of foods from all the five food groups- including fruit, vegetables (cooked and raw), dairy, wholegrains and protein. This helps to get enough fibre.
Variety of protein – Eg adding legumes/tofu/nuts and seeds to your day
Include prebiotic foods- For example onion, garlic, leek, banana, apple, oats, asparagus, wheat bran, barley and seaweed.
Probiotics - We suggest Lifespace Triple Strength (Chemist Warehouse). Several studies have shown that probiotics effectively mitigated anxiety and depressive symptoms similar to conventional prescription medications and also help to reduce obesity.
Include probiotic foods - Fermented food such as kimchi, kefir, unpasteurised sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, tempeh, Kombucha and pickles (add these daily or at every meal to reap the benefits).
Drink enough water – 1.5-2L per day
Include essential complex carbohydrates – such as wholegrain or rye or sourdough bread, wholegrain cereals such as oats and untoasted muesli, a variety of types of rice including brown, red and black, quinoa and wholegrain pasta. These help regulate the immune system, fight off invading pathogens, produce nutrients and provide extra energy.
Include cheese in small amounts. I discussed cheese in one of my previous blogs so check that out too. Cheese increases certain beneficial bacteria in the microbiome.
Decrease artificial sweeteners- artificial sweeteners cause overgrowth of certain bacteria resulting in induced glucose intolerance.
Include foods rich in Polyphenols (eg, from tea, coffee, berries, and vegetables such as artichokes, olives, and asparagus). These increase intestinal barrier protectors resulting in reduction of metabolic syndrome markers and cardiovascular risk markers.
As always, the tips above are general. If you would like an individualised plan on how to create a healthy gut microbiome see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.
Until next time,
Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)
Accredited Nutritionist (AN)