This is the last part of the gut microbiome series and after having established what the gut microbiome is and why we need it, I will now go into how we can help our gut microbiome to do its job.
What can I do to help my gut microbiome?
Researchers agree here: You are what you eat!
As I said in the last article, diversity is key when it comes to our gut microbiome, you need to make sure ALL of your bacteria stay happy within your gut. So, to keep your diverse bacteria with you, it is important to basically eat everything.
As I mentioned in the previous article, one of the key points is that bacteria produce SCFAs from our food, so we should give them foods that are high in complex sugars, like fibres. So, as your mummy always said, keep eating your veggis.
Also, some studies suggested that certain food additives have an impact on the microbial profile of our guts. These include for example emulsifiers, which work like soaps and kill certain bacterial cells. Also stabilisers were shown to induce colitis in animals and artificial sweeteners led to a change in the microbial composition and glucose intolerance in mice.
However, it is not clear yet whether these compounds would have the same effect on the human gut microbiota.
Most importantly, antibiotics have drastic effects on the composition of our gut microbiota and researchers think this is one of the causes for some of our modern chronic diseases.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics are bacterial strains, like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, that have beneficial effects on our health by helping us digesting our food or protecting us from pathogenic colonisation. The FAO/WHO considers “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” as probiotic.
Interestingly, probiotics do not reside in the gut over a long time, which means to have a long lasting effect, you should keep eating them over a long time. These kind of bacteria were shown to enhance our immune system and to produce substances that are toxic for pathogenic bacteria.
For example, a probiotic strain of Escherichia coli can slow down the growth of a pathogenic Salmonella strain. Escherichia coli has transporters that specifically bind iron and uptake iron into the cell. With this mechanism, the Escherichia strain uses the iron of the environment, so that there is none left for Salmonella. Because Salmonella and all other bacteria need iron for growth, Salmonella has trouble growing and colonising the gut environment.
Foods with probiotics are fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi or fermented vegetables, but beware here, as not all of these food actually contain approved probiotic strains.
If you want to know more about fermented foods and their effects on our body, I can highly recommend this article by my friend Justine.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are basically the food for our gut microbiome party and are defined as microbial food supplements that beneficially affect the host by improving its intestinal microbial balance.
These include food that our body is not able to digest, so the bacteria in our gut can take care of them. The bacteria then produce SCFAs, which we know have various health benefits for our body.
Prebiotics also promote the growth of probiotic bacteria in our gut and help our gut cells to take up important minerals which we need for our health.
Mostly, prebiotics are complex sugars that can be found in asparagus, onions or garlic as well as fibres.
And what about synbiotics?
Synbiotics are combinations of probiotic bacterial strains and prebiotics. This basically means that the right bacteria come and bring their own food to your gut party.
- We really need our gut bacteria!
- Feed your gut bacteria what they need
- Make sure not to inhibit the growth of the gut bacteria
Okay, I hope this littler series could shed a bit of light onto the whole mystery of the gut microbiome, what it is and what it does and how best to support it.
If you have any other questions or want me to explain anything in more detail, please let me know in the comments or on social media.